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Lyndeborough

Chief’s salary, contract debated

LYNDEBOROUGH — Select Board members agreed on a salary range for the new police chief position at their meeting Wednesday, and set up a structure for one of the committees that will interview candidates.

“I think we’re in a good range right now,” Board Chair Kevin Boette said, referring to the salary the town is paying its part-time officer in charge Rance Deware. He suggested that the town should pay between $24 and $33 an hour for the 32-hour-per-week police chief job.

“I think we need to decide if this person is going to be salaried or hourly,” said Select Board member Fred Douglas. “I think he should be salaried.”

“I do, too,” Boette said, noting that the salary needs to be enough to enable a chief to live in or near Lyndeborough.

The board ultimately agreed on a salary range of $40,000 to $55,000 for the job, with the expectation that the police chief would work a 32-hour week.

Douglas suggested that the chief should be hired with a one-year probationary period. Boette and Select Board member Arnie Byam agreed with that recommendation.

“Are we going to entertain having a contract?,” Douglas asked.

“I don’t like the idea of a contract,” Boette said. “I’d like common sense and professionalism to take care of that. I think the contract will be the job description.”

Douglas said the board will need to be prepared for a candidate to ask for a contract, given Lyndeborough’s past history regarding police chiefs. In 2008, voters abolished the police chief position after battling in court with former chief James Basinas, who was fired by the Select Board in 2007. Rather than having a chief, the town opted to have an officer in charge, reporting to the Select Board. A year ago, Capt. Thomas Burke resigned as officer in charge, citing board interference, and Sgt. Paul Roy was fired by the Select Board. Burke and Roy are currently suing the town, charging that they were improperly terminated. Last year’s turmoil prompted residents to submit a petition warrant article to direct the board to once again hire a police chief; the article passed by just a two-vote margin.

“With everything that’s gone on, who do you think is going to walk through that door and not want a contract?” Douglas asked.

Boette again said he didn’t think a contract was necessary for a town the size of Lyndeborough.

At the suggestion of acting Town Administrator Burton Reynolds, the board agreed to leave the question of whether to offer a contract open for discussion when candidates are being reviewed.

Board members agreed that a job description will be required before the recruitment process starts. Administrative Assistant Cindi Hasty said she had been through all the town files and had been unable to find one. Douglas, a longtime resident and former Milford police chief who is serving his first term on the board, said he believed the town had a job description at one point. Board members agreed to work on a new job description at their next meeting.

Douglas also distributed a proposed vetting process for the police chief job. He asked if the board would consider an outside consultant firm to recruit candidate. Boette and Byam said they didn’t think that was necessary.

The board also discussed the make-up of a professional assessment panel that would review candidates.

After discussion of the pros and cons of having local police chiefs on the panel — Boette said local chiefs could offer valuable insight, while Douglas said police representatives should come from elsewhere in the state — they settled on a committee of at least five people. The committee would include a Budget and Property Committee member, the town administrator (either Reynolds or Town Administrator Kate Thorndike, who is on a medical leave of absence), a resident of at least five years, a law enforcement professional, and a former elected town official. Douglas said he will recommend that Mark Schultz, a resident and retired police officer who once served a Lyndeborough’s police chief, be on the committee, noting that Schultz fits the criteria for two of the slots.

The Ledger-Transcript was unable to contact Schultz for comment about the proposed committee.

Douglas also suggested that the board hire an outsider with police experience to do a thorough background check once a conditional offer is made to a candidate. He said he had at least one person in mind who would be good for that job, which he said should not be done by the Select Board or a citizens’ panel.

“They’re going to really start digging,” Douglas said about having an outside investigator. “Maybe we did it to the best of our ability [in the past] but the best of our ability wasn’t enough.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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