GILMANTON — After filing a contempt motion, Gilmanton Police Chief Matt Currier and the town’s selectmen have agreed to a 60-day cooling off period in an effort to resolve a yearlong dispute over the extent to which the selectmen can tell the chief how to run the Police Department.
The agreement to the 60-day stay was reached Tuesday at the conclusion of a five-hour mediation session involving the two sides and their respective attorneys, according to Currier’s attorney, Ed Philpot.
The contempt hearing, which had been scheduled for Thursday, was consequently canceled.
Philpot filed a motion to find the selectmen in contempt after selectmen hired a consulting firm to conduct an operational assessment of the Police Department. Philpot charged that, by initiating the study, selectmen were circumventing a prior court ruling barring selectmen from imposing 17 policies on the Police Department regarding staffing and personnel.
In the contempt motion, Philpot argued the the assessment, being conducted by Municipal Resources Inc., amounted to an end-run to get access to information, including polygraph tests, interviews and other investigative information, which he says Currier cannot divulge without violating state law.
“The stay allows the (department) assessment to go forward … and then we will see if can enter into some of the matters that can be resolved,” Philpot said Thursday.
The court filing asking Judge James D. O’Neill III to approve the stay states “selectmen agree they will not attempt to enforce the directives (they drew up last December) or adopt or create new ones.” The document goes on to say that Currier will give selectmen a week’s notice before he goes on vacation, that he will inform selectmen whenever he is out sick, and that he will attend at least one selectmen’s meeting a month to update them on department matters.
Philpot said that, in agreeing to the stay, the parties reserve all their rights in the litigation.
The contempt motion states that the selectmen transferred $72,000 — or 12 percent — from the Police Department’s $620,000 budget and reallocated that amount to the town’s “legal” line item. It also states that in the past two years the selectmen have held scores nonpublic sessions, the substance of which remain secret. The document specifically says that this year selectmen have met 32 times, and during those meetings held 71 nonpublic sessions and voted to seal the minutes of 65 of those sessions. In 2017, the selectmen met approximately 34 times, during which there were 100 non-public sessions, with the minutes of 75 sealed, according to the filing.
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