Rindge hires chief, but officer vacancies remain

RINDGE — With the Rindge Select Board’s promotion of Frank Morrill to chief from sergeant last week, the town’s Police Department is one step closer to being fully staffed. Now, questions about who will assume the roles of sergeant and detective remain.

At a Select Board meeting Wednesday, Chair Jed Brummer announced that the board had formally hired Morrill at the conclusion of a national search, which was launched this summer. Morrill has been interim chief since April when Chief Mike Sielicki resigned and accepted a job as chief of the Kensington Police Department.

During a nonpublic session prior to Wednesday’s public meeting, Brummer said Morrill and the board agreed to an employment contract and that Morrill had proposed a new sergeant and detective for the Police Department. While Brummer did not name the candidates, he said the board would be hiring from within the Police Department to fill both positions within the next couple of weeks.

Prior to its decision to hold a national search for a new chief, the board appointed Morrill to interim chief for a six-month trial period. Rindge Det. Dan Anair also took on increased responsibilities, which were previously filled by the sergeant.

Morrill told the Ledger-Transcript on Thursday that filling the positions of sergeant and detective from within the Police Department provides officers with an opportunity for upward mobility and is likely to increase both morale and retention. Once the positions are filled, a formal pinning ceremony will be held with Morrill and the two officers.

In addition, the Police Department has an eighth full-time patrolman position that is currently unfilled. Morrill said his plan is to come before the board soon so that it can authorize a national search process that would begin in January.

While Morrill’s employment contract is still being finalized, following its discussion in nonpublic last week, Town Administrator Carlotta Pini and Brummer noted changes from Sielicki’s former contract. Pini said Morrill was hired as a salaried exempt employee like the other department heads and that he cannot accrue compensatory time.

Sielicki, who was hired in 2003, was reimbursed for 286 hours of comp time following his resignation earlier this year. An investigation by the N.H. Department of Labor, which began more than two years ago, sided with Sielicki and, in turn, disagreed with the town’s interpretation of contractual language in Sielicki’s contract regarding comp time.

Brummer said Morrill is also contracted not to perform police details during normal business hours.

Morrill is contracted to earn $66,100 annually, which is about $70 more than what Sielicki earned a year when he was employed by Rindge, Brummer said.

Despite the board’s decision to launch a national search to fill the position of chief, support for Morrill’s promotion in the community remained visible over the past few months. The town-wide surveys, which were conducted as a part of the search process, weighed significantly into the board’s decision, Pini said.

Residents expressed in the surveys that they wanted a chief who is community oriented, understands the quote, “small town,” has roots in the town, is devoted to the community and dedicated to building relationships, Pini said.

Officer Jeff Seppala said Thursday that morale has increased at the Police Department since Morrill began serving as interim chief and that Morrill’s background and experience in the town is incredibly valuable.

Jim Earle, vice president of Student Affairs at Franklin Pierce University, wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Friday, “Over the last seven months, while Frank has served as the interim chief, he has worked diligently to strengthen communication channels and the relationship between the university and the town. We look forward to working with our new chief and wish him the best of luck.”

Morrill said Thursday that he was extremely grateful to residents for their support throughout the hiring process. “It was empowering and helped me remain strong as I moved forward through the various stages of the process,” he said. “I was deeply committed to doing the best that I possibly could.”

And, although some residents expressed their disagreement with the board for launching a national search, Morrill said the process was rewarding and taught him a great deal about himself and the hopes of the townspeople.

As chief, Morrill said his first goal is to get the Police Department fully staffed and maintain that staffing level. Long-term, Morrill said, he wants to continue to promote collaboration between the town, Police Department and FPU.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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