GILMANTON — A ruling prohibiting the town’s selectmen from implementing a set of directives regarding the operation of the Police Department was extended for three more months after a court hearing Wednesday.
Attorneys for the town and Police Chief Matt Currier asked for the extension of the stay during a brief hearing in Belknap Superior Court.
Currier’s attorney Edward Philpot told Judge James D. O’Neill III that a report on the evaluation of the department conducted by consulting firm MRI has been submitted to the town. He said it would take time for both the selectmen and Currier to study the 71-page report.
Philpot said he hoped that the report would provide a basis to see how the disagreements between selectmen and the chief regarding department operations and procedures can be resolved.
Town attorney Demetrio F. Aspiras III told O’Neill the continuance of the stay was also needed because incumbent Selectmen Stephen McWhinnie lost his re-election bid in a three-way race on Tuesday. Aspiras said it would take the new selectman, Mark Warren, time to become familiar with the details of the suit.
Currier took the selectmen to court in February 2018 after selectmen enacted a series of policies in December 2017 regarding Police Department staffing and personnel, including the hours of coverage, staffing levels, lengths of shifts, use of cruisers and when officers are permitted to travel beyond town limits. They also told Police Chief Matt Currier to turn over material from the officers’ personnel records, including background checks and polygraph test results.
In a prior hearing, Philpot argued state law gives selectmen no authority to oversee the day-to-day operation of a police department. The selectmen’s authority “is limited to administrative functions,” he said.
The selectmen’s position, however, has been that all the legal authority to administer municipal services is vested in the Board of Selectmen, and therefore it is entirely appropriate that they require the police chief to give an accounting of how he is managing his department as well as to set basic policies regarding the use of his personnel.
Philpot told O’Neill he is optimistic that the MRI report will allow Currier and the selectmen to “move forward” in an effort to settle at least some of the differences.
As part of an agreement reached in December, Currier will continue to give selectmen a week’s notice before he goes on vacation, he will inform selectmen whenever he is out sick, and will attend at least one selectmen’s meeting a month to update them on department matters.