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|Police chief wonâ€™t return|
|Tuesday, 09 June 2009 16:27|
The contract of Police Chief Mark DeLuca will not be renewed, Town Manager Richard MacDonald said this week.
MacDonald sent a letter to DeLuca dated June 4 letting him know the contract would not be extended when it expires in November.
â€œAfter consideration of current management practices, I have decided to take a new approach in managing the police department,â€ he wrote.
MacDonald said he would be appointing a new chief in November. He declined to elaborate on the decision.
â€œThe letter states my position at this time,â€ he said Monday.
DeLuca has been police chief since 1999. Before that, he was a sergeant with the Boston Police Department. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.
A call placed to his attorney, Gerald McAuliffe of Quincy, was not returned as of press time.
Lt. Lewis Chubb of the Police Department, who recently signed a letter of support for the chief along with two other lieutenants, declined to comment when contacted Tuesday.
Selectman Betsy Sullivan said that the decision on the police chiefâ€™s contract was the town managerâ€™s call.
â€œIâ€™m sure that this was a difficult decision for all involved,â€ she said. â€œI respect the town managerâ€™s decision, and I wish Chief DeLuca the absolute best in his future.â€
She added that she had faith in the personnel process outlined in the town managerâ€™s act.
â€œMr. MacDonald has been Town Manager during a very difficult time,â€ she said. â€œI think he had done a wonderful job trying to move the town forward.â€
Under legislation passed in 1987 establishing a town manager form of government, the town manager has the power to make certain appointments in town. In addition to appointing the police chief, the manager also has the power to appoint the fire chief, director of public works, conservation administrator, building inspector and several other positions. According to the bylaw, the Board of Selectmen has ratification power over appointments and removals, which they have 15 days to exercise. However, it is unclear if not renewing a contract would count as a removal under the bylaw.
Selectman Christopher Donato said in an e-mail Tuesday that the non-renewal of the chiefâ€™s contract is â€œa tremendous loss to the Duxbury community.â€
â€œI believe that Chief DeLuca is a tremendous asset to the town of Duxbury,â€ Donato wrote.
Donatoâ€™s wife is employed as the administrative assistant to the police chief. She subsequently resigned that post effective June 10, according to the townâ€™s personnel administrator.
â€œHer decision was directly related to the letter to the Chief,â€ Donato wrote. â€œIn order for me to take a more active role in matters that have to do with my wifeâ€™s direct supervisor, while maintaining compliance with the state ethics laws, my wife was forced to resign her position.â€
He said they both believe the decision was in the â€œbest interest of the residents of Duxbury.â€
Donato had recently sought an opinion from town counsel, asking if there would be a conflict of interest if he voted on matters involving the police department. The issue had also been raised in the recent Board of Selectmen race between Donato and then incumbent Andre Martecchini. At that time, Donato said he would seek an opinion from the Department of Justice, and believed he was free to vote on police matters as long as he filed a disclosure form.
Town Counsel Robert Troy, in an opinion dated May 29, wrote that Donato could deal only with â€œgeneralized mattersâ€ of the police department, and only if he filed a disclosure with the town clerk.
Troy said that Donato would, in his opinion, be barred from voting on matters involving the police chief, as he is Donatoâ€™s wifeâ€™s immediate supervisor. He would also be prohibited from voting on any matters that involved his wifeâ€™s financial interest.
â€œYou have suggested that you may be able to cure the appearance of any conflict of interest ... by filing a disclosure form with the town,â€ wrote Troy. â€œI respectfully disagree ... you are also prohibited from participating in any contract negotiation, termination, resignation or replacement or any matter that deals with the Police Chief.â€
Although Donatoâ€™s wife will not be employed by the town after June 10, it is unclear if that immediately removes the potential conflict.
The fact that DeLucaâ€™s contract may not be renewed was first mentioned in two letters written by police-related union officials two weeks ago.
â€œIf this is true [that DeLucaâ€™s contract would not be renewed] it would be a travesty and totally unjust,â€ wrote Lt. Roger Banfill, Chubb and Lt. Susan James in the Commanders Associationâ€™s letter. â€œThe Police Department is running smoothly under Chief DeLucaâ€™s leadership ... we are honored to serve the citizens of Duxbury but are concerned for its welfare in light of the Town Managerâ€™s inappropriate actions.â€
The police dispatchers unionâ€™s letter, signed by William Thomas and John Cannizzo, echoes the support for the chief.
â€œIt should be noted that Mr. MacDonaldâ€™s attempts to undermine our Chief have and will continue to be futile,â€ the letter reads.
DeLuca has been chief since 1999. In that time, he has overseen the department becoming accredited â€“â€“ at the time, Duxbury was the only department on the South Shore to do so. The accreditation process is a self-initiated evaluation process where the department must meet 253 mandatory standards as well as 60 percent of 122 optional standards. The department is about to go through another assessment process in late June.
Chief DeLuca also started the Police Athletic League program in Duxbury, and has fostered community connections through the Duxbury Student Union and the R.A.D. self-defense program. He also started the Community Action Team to improve communication between residents and the department.
However, the chief has also come under fire during his tenure. Recently, DeLuca defended a letter of support he wrote for a convicted drug dealer who worked with DeLuca at a Police Athletic League gym.
In 2007, a criminal charge was filed by Haverhill police in Haverhill District Court against Deluca following an altercation at an amateur boxing event. The case was resolved when a hearing on the charge was cancelled before it took place.
In 2005, a female police officer filed a sexual harassment suit with the Mass Commission Against Discrimination. Among her allegations were that pornography was on work computers and that Chief Deluca dressed inappropriately around her. A former police chief hired by the town found the claims to be unsubstantiated.
Also in 2005, another officer alleged that DeLuca and other members of the department had used racial slurs toward him. The officer filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which was later dismissed.
During DeLucaâ€™s tenure, the town has been involved in legal action with a number of police officers as well.
DeLuca, who resides in Whitman, is a former member of the state boxing commission and was a decorated amateur boxer.
(See related story: Selectman requests closed-door meeting over chiefâ€™s contract)