Selectmen voted 3-2 last night to deny acting town manager Mike Milanoski’s appointment of acting chief Bill Quigley to the Cohasset Police Chief. The selectmen’s chamber was filled with Quigley supporters, but the crowd didn’t overflow into the hall and down the steps.
At the end of the evening selectman vice chair Diane Kennedy made a motion to begin a new search for police chief, but the board felt it was too late in the evening to open the agenda and Kennedy withdrew her motion.
Milanoski went over a glowing list of achievements made by Quigley over his years on the Cohasset police force, and alluded several times to selectmen’s bad handling of the search, saying that they had given him no guidance. As a result, Milanoski said there was confusion and uncertainty in town hall and the police force – where there had been an erosion of staff morale.
“I endeavored to work with selectmen; each effort has been stopped,” Milanoski complained.
Kevin McCarthy, new co-chair of the governance committee, said “all this anxiety and tension in the town” (not having a permanent police chief in place) could deter a new town manager.
Advisory committee member George Chamillard said the group to appoint Quigley had a petition with 650 signatures and more were coming in. “If he’s so well qualified why isn’t he (Quigley) being endorsed by the board of selectmen? It makes sense to promote Bill now.” Chamillard also complained that the job description wasn’t written right but said good process doesn’t always yield good results. “Many people suggested that Quigley wasn’t appointed because of good, old fashioned politics. Quigley was caught in the crossfire (of Milanoski) …anything Milanoski would bring forward is DOA.”
After everyone spoke select chair Fred Koed would read the points they had made back to them. At one point a speaker said: “Oh you don’t have to do that.” Koed responded that he did, and that he wanted the speaker to know that the selectmen were listening to them.
Citizen Lou Harvey said his concerns were practices, procedures and processes. He said not every process is a good process. He said he felt the police chief search process had broken down. “I suggest you look at the established process and see if it is appropriate in this situation.”
Harvey said his relationship with Quigley happened 10 years ago when he was embroiled in a number of issues, rumor and innuendo. He said what he discovered about Quigley is that he was a skilled policeman and he had a knowledge of the town and a commitment to it.
Jack Creighton said after Mark DeLuca left the force, Quigley stepped forward to assume the duties. Creighton said it wasn’t often that people have the opportunity to see a potential chief serving under trying circumstances. He said he wanted Quigley to continue that service.
Russ Bonetti said Quigley never had an arrest thrown out. He then noted that Quigley had a lot of support “And it’s rare to see the kind of support Bill has.”
Agnes McCann said, “The question is, he might be the best candidate, but should he be the only candidate?” She said the town didn’t really have a town manager. If this is so urgent, she wondered and if Quigley is the gold standard, “Why wasn’t this (Quigley’s appointment) done by the last board of selectmen?”
Six hundred people think he’s great, I think he’s great,” McCann said, “but the issue is, how do we choose our police chief?”
Selectman Steve Gaumer said Quigley had spent a better part of 16 months applying for chief. He added that the acting town manager had the right to appoint the permanent police chief and the board of selectmen had no policies regarding that appointment
McCann countered that the board of selectmen made it clear that they wanted the permanent town manager to appoint the permanent police chief.
“It’s not policy to say the permanent manager should appoint Quigley,” Gaumer said.
Selectman Diane Kennedy said the whole police chief search morass was the selectmen’s fault. “Mike (Milanoski) wanted to exercise his appointing authority but we wanted process. “This appointment could have been made by any town manager without the politics.” Kennedy wholeheartedly apologized and then asked her colleagues to stop playing political games. Amazingly, they ignored her.
Selectman Karen Quigley said one of the problems with the police chief search is that the acting town manager had been in place too long, that most acting managers aren’t around long enough to start making key appointments. “For me, it’s not about the candidate, it is about the process.”
Selectman Martha Gjesteby said it was important for the permanent town manager to have his own police chief because they work closely together.”
Koed then read a prepared statement:
Statement of Cohasset Selectman Chair Fred Koed
Board of Selectmen Meeting of September 17, 2013
Prepared Remarks on
Agenda Item “Appointment of Police Chief by Acting Town Manager”
To my colleagues and fellow town citizens, I come before you to address this important public policy issue about the agenda item “the appointment of Cohasset’s next police chief”, and to start with these prepared remarks:
Dueling Political Petition Drives
Where are we in Cohasset tonight? We now have dueling petition drives seeking to influence this board of selectmen. Where does that end?
Citizens often petition our governments. It is our democratic right as Americans. Is it however really true democracy under our system when an appointed manager thwarts the policy direction of the town’s elected representatives? Is it true democratic government when the appointment of our next police chief becomes a rallying cry for one faction’s political agenda?
This agenda item should be about the process – about an open, fair, and objective process to select the next professional to lead our police department.
It is not a popularity contest. Under our form of government, we don’t elect chiefs of police. The officers sworn to uphold our laws aren’t on the ballot, nor should they be.
Law enforcement, is not, and cannot, be subject to political whim, nor to the pressure of voting blocks. It should not, and cannot, be subject to the type of in- the-street campaign tactics we have seen playing out over the past several weeks. This behavior, obviously in coordination with the actions of the acting town manager in this regard, is at the very least unseemly.
Given that the town passed the Town Manager Act in 1997 to take the politics out of appointments, this coordination with the acting town manager’s effort is far worse than unseemly. It is nothing short of disrespectful of our representative form of government that this important decision for our community is now the subject of dueling petition drives.
Brinkmanship Doesn’t Belong in Cohasset
The Board of Selectmen is the executive branch of government that oversees the day-to-day operations of the town manager. The manager is the chief administrative officer, who oversees the police chief. The chief, in turn, oversees the police department. The chain of command therefore is clear, as is ultimate control by the elected representatives of the town – the board of selectmen.
The selectmen set the direction and the policy for the town. The town manager is the chief administrative officer to the selectmen, not some kind of chief executive officer.
Integrity of the Hiring Process
The Town Manager Act creates an important balance of power under state law. The town manager has the power to appoint the police chief. The selectmen have the power to reject the appointment within 15 days of the appointment. It is not an abuse of power, as some have erroneously claimed, for either to exercise their prerogative.
The previous board of selectmen directed the acting town manager to conduct an advertised and open search for our next police chief. Requiring a search means that the manager conducts a professional search. It doesn’t mean a job posting tailored to a specific individual. How can that be professional under any definition?
The power to approve or reject the appointment rests with the Board of Selectmen. Therefore a prudent town manager should understand and respect the policy position laid out by the board, as in this instance of a voted direction for a professional search.
Selectmen voted the first time to halt the search because of substantial irregularities in the job posting. Frankly, the exclusionary wording of the job posting brought into question the integrity of the entire search process.
Everyone in Cohasset watching this issue knows where this board stands based on the 3-2 votes to demand a professional search for our next police chief. So the question becomes “Why the brinkmanship”?
Why is it so urgent that this position police chief position be filled now? Why can’t it wait until the permanent town manager can pick his or her own team? By all accounts acting police chief Quigley has been doing a good job, and police department morale is high. In the next breath we are told morale is low because there has been no appointment. Which is it, high or low?
This is a Public Policy Decision
If the town manager truly has the power to appoint without any other considerations, why didn’t he just make the appointment at any time this year?
The reason is clear: In repeated votes of this board, a clear public policy decision was made. Cohasset’s selectmen voted to direct a professional search, to have the position be fully advertised, and to have a search committee be appointed. We voted to have an independent “assessment center” to test the four or five final applicants. The center was to be staffed by several independent Massachusetts police chiefs.
That was a public policy decision. It was to be a fair and open search process. Instead, Cohasset got brinkmanship and petition drives. Instead of professionalism, we got the exact opposite.
This is not about Bill Quigley. I am probably the only selectmen that has supported Bill Quigley every step of the way up through the police ranks, after his initial appointment by a board that included Martha. My support of our acting chief includes the vote to create his current position as deputy chief.
This is not about Michael Milanoski. I am one of two selectmen remaining on the board that supported his coming on board for no pay for two weeks, his first contract, and then his second contract.
In this last election cycle, the center of gravity of the board of selectmen shifted. But something else has shifted in Cohasset. That election saw the first ever case of documented election fraud, with phony election signs designed deliberately to appear as authentic signs from another candidate.
Several of your selectmen spoke out on that, and a police investigation was started. Apparently however, that investigation has stalled according to the acting town manager. Now Cohasset has its first ever “election” for police chief, a direct attempt to block the voted policy of your elected board of selectmen.
Open fair elections have been soiled by election fraud. A professional search process for our next law enforcement chief has been subverted by electioneering for the position. The votes of this board have been repeatedly defied by the acting town manager.
A Government of Laws, Not of Men
Colleagues, and fellow citizens of Cohasset: This evening is about preserving the integrity of the democratic process itself. It is about how your elected representatives are able to carry out your expressed will under law.
It Cohasset, representative democracy has existed longer than our nation itself. Far too many men and women have had to fight and die for our form of government to continue to exist for me to ever think I could subvert its principles.
Tonight I stand by the principle that, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, all high level jobs in the town of Cohasset, are to be publically posted and professionally selected. I stand by the principle that here elections and the representatives they put in office are sovereign, not any appointed manager. Here in Cohasset, as in our county, we are indeed a government of laws, and not of men.
I will stand on that principle no matter how many petitions are brought in here, nor how many former officials electioneer in our streets. Our town demands we stand for nothing less.
End of Koed’s prepared statement
Gaumer –said the board of selectmen had not met once to define objectives. “This is about a lack of process.”
Kennedy said petitions were a good thing and she disagreed with Koed’s analysis of the Appoint Quigley petitions as being a coordinated effort with the acting town manager…there’s the faction that wants to do whatever is against the town manager,” she said.
Kennedy added that the governance committee wisely gave the acting town manager a job description in the Amended Town Manager act.
Koed said he had just learned from Rep. Garrett Bradley that the amended act had come out of committee with a favorable vote. He then once again stressed that public jobs should be publicly posted and candidates should have a level playing field. “I also wanted an independent assessment center composed of four or five police chiefs,” but when Milanoski chose to bring up the appointment without a search or a selection committee, he lost Koed’s vote. As for the urgency to appoint a chief, Koed said the job of chief was not vacant; it was just filled by someone in an acting position.
Gaumer said Koed should have proposed the same.
Koed said he could not propose, “It’s Mike’s job.”
Koed said last week’s Mariner made it sound like he toppled the police search by himself. “Just so everybody knows, I had some help. Maybe those who voted to help me want to explain why they voted that way.”
Kennedy and Gjesteby said they both wanted to set up a good search. But when Koed wanted a professional search for $5,000 the board voted against spending the money.
Koed noted that Scituate’s nation-wide search for a new police chief ended with the internal candidate being chosen.© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed