Cohasset’s Police Chief Search Halted

Selectmen have put a stop to the police chief search via a motion to reconsider the vote made by selectman Martha Gjesteby. Gjesteby, select chair Fred Koed and selectman Karen Quigley prevailed by voting to both reconsider and voting No on a motion to proceed with the search for a police chief. Vice chair Diane Kennedy and selectman Steve Gaumer voted Yes, on the losing side.

At the selectmen’s June 18th meeting Gjesteby voted with selectman vice chair Diane Kennedy and selectman Steve Gaumer to proceed with the search for a chief. Gjesteby said she hadn’t realized that the board might be within months of hiring a permanent town manager. At the last meeting the police chief search agenda item was earlier in the agenda. The vote to hire the Collins Center to conduct the town manager search came later.

Gjesteby’s request for reconsideration may be a first in recent Cohasset Selectmen history, select chair Fred Koed said.

In all fairness to acting town manager Mike Milanoski, the former board of selectmen told him to advertise for the job, but were in support of hiring the favorite son. Accordingly, the qualifications advertised  for the job mirrored the acting police chief’s resume to the T – up to and including five years experience as a police lieutenant and special courses. The first ad the town manager ran was so exclusionary that town counsel, who did not see it before it was published, opined that it truly should be softened to encourage candidates, not scare them away. And, it was possibly illegal, town counsel said.

Koed said he researched reconsideration and Robert’s Rules, under which the board of selectmen run their meetings, said that reconsideration can be taken up only at the meeting following the meeting at which the agenda item was voted – which would be last night’s meeting.

Gjesteby said she had checked with town counsel and was advised that as the process for applications didn’t close until July 1, reconsideration was in order.

Kennedy said she was completely opposed to Gjesteby’s reconsideration. She said the board of selectmen is a policy board, and that the town manager had complete authority to hire the chief. “With all due respect, we have been discussing this since February. You were always a proponent of getting the search underway.”

Kennedy said there were other ways of controlling the outcome besides halting the search. She said the entire budget was changed at the last minute to reflect a two-person command staff. If reconsideration were voted, it would be another 6 months before the acting police chief would have a second, Kennedy said, equating the request for a reconsideration vote to a ride on a loopy roller coaster.

Gaumer said halting the police chief search would scare away really good candidates, but the majority of the board felt that it had already done the same by tailoring the qualifications to mirror that of the acting chief.

Quigley said she had serious concerns about the search process and did not share Kennedy’s and Gaumer’s urgency to find a chief.

“ I voted against it and I am still against it. I have serious concerns about the process.” Quigley said the public did not view the process as being open.

Gaumer asked Quigley why the process was not open.

Quigley said the job description tailored for one individual, and “The selection committee has been stacked.” She said former police chief Brian Noonan’s stepson was on the Cohasset Police Force, and had been hired by Quigley. Under the nepotism act immediate family incudes the public employee, his/her spouse, parents, children (step or otherwise) brothers and sisters (See G.L. c. 268A, section 1(e).

As a member of the search committee, had Noonan not chosen Quigley as a finalist a list to be interviewed by a chief review, he would not be in conflict. Had he chosen Quigley as one of 2-3 candidates to be interviewed further, he would be in conflict of interest.  Selectman Quigley had also stated that Noonan was hired by acting chief Quigley to do details, but Noonan told this blogger that he retired from that activity two years ago.

Koed said he supported the motion halt the police chief search process. He said his goal had been to hire a professional firm to advertise for and receive resumes for police chief. He said he was in favor of the Collins Center for advertising for and receiving resumes for town manager because he wanted that professionalism

Gaumer said under the existing town manager act the police chief was not the selectmen’s hire.

Koed countered that the selectmen had every right to say they wanted a professional search committee.

Gamer said the board had no authority in this area, as it had established no policy.

“We do have the authority to direct the town manager, “Quigley said.

Gaumer said maybe next week he would ask for reconsideration of the police chief search.

“Your motion to reconsider would be out of order, you voted against,” Koed said.

Gjesteby said she felt the acting town manager’s job was to keep the ship afloat, not to be involved in myriad of hirings. She said she noticed that after former town manager Mike Coughlin left office a number of people lost their jobs.

Gaumer wondered “Where in the town manager act does it say that?”

Gjesteby said it was akin to the president of a company hiring his own men. She added that the acting chief had been in the positing for six months, she didn’t think another four months would be a problem.

“From my prospective I get a second bit of the apple,” Koed said.

Quigley said the acting town manager should not be making permanent hires, and that former acting/interim managers had refrained from doing so.  What Quigley did not say is that the acting town manger will have been with us for two years in the early months of 2014, an incredibly long and unusual and illegal appointment.

Kennedy wondered if it were possible for the board to discuss the selection process.

Koed said No. “There are a whole slew of people who could not apply because the lieutenant restriction. I had no knowledge of that restriction until recently. (The acting chief served 5 years as a police lieutenant, and that became part of the advertised qualifications.) Koed said this is one of the reasons he wanted an outside group to advertise for the position and receive resumes.

Quigley said the ad for a Scituate Police Chief and a Cohasset Police Chief were like night and day. Scituate stressed degrees and advanced degrees. Cohasset didn’t.

The acting town manager said it was offensive for selectman Quigley to have pointed out a potential conflict on the search committee. He said Quigley had insulted three individuals, but she had not done that at all.  She had only questioned a potential conflict regarding the former police chief, whom she respects.

Kennedy asked where the town was to go with the 30-40 resumes it had already collected. Once again she said that she felt a qualified group of citizens could better qualify resumes than a professional police chief search group.


© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed