NEW IPSWICH — While a study into whether the town should try to join forces with other communities to form a regional police department continues, Chief Garrett Chamberlain has decided to resign effective Dec. 31, but he will continue to draw a paycheck through June 2014.
Frustrated by the move to regionalize and what he said is hostile treatment from some segments of the community, Chamberlain approached selectmen July 30 with a proposal that would allow them to buy out his contract at a cost of $175,192.52, or 18 months’ salary and benefits, according to minutes of the July 30 meeting.
Instead of taking the payout in a lump sum, Chamberlain’s offer means he would continue to be paid weekly. Though he wouldn’t be working after Dec. 31, he would still remain on the police department roster as either an officer or consultant in order to continue contributing toward his retirement, which he’s eligible to collect beginning in 2014.
In the meeting minutes, Chamberlain, who would not comment for this story, said that selectmen have been undermining the police department, and he said he “has done all he can, nothing is going to change, nothing will get any better.”
Regarding the regionalization proposal, Chamberlain said the purpose of the committee to study regionalization was to get rid of him as police chief.
“There is negative energy regarding support for anything police,” he said according to the minutes.
Chamberlain has served as chief for 10 years and has an indefinite contract that can be bought out only if he agrees. The only other option the town has of ending his contract is to terminate him for cause, but Chamberlain said in the minutes that his reviews by the board have been “excellent or exemplary,” and the board would have no legal grounds for termination. He also said he would have to consider a hostile workplace lawsuit if the board were to force him to stay on as chief.
“This is a one-shot proposal, the options are going to be on the table just once,” Chamberlain said in the minutes.
The board ultimately voted in favor of Chamberlain’s proposal, but chairman George Lawrence said he was surprised by the chief’s decision and disappointed.
“It pained me in a way to see him come in because I was on the board that hired him,” said Lawrence.
The board chose to accept Chamberlain’s offer because, Lawrence said, it was clear that there were no grounds to terminate him, and any lawsuit would have cost as much as the severance deal.
“In theory, the town would still be paying some amount of money,” he said.
What’s next for the department is still up in the air. The board hasn’t discussed whether they will bring in a new chief after Dec. 31 or opt for some other method of managing the department.
“At this point, the regionalization committee is still in effect, but even if we found other towns that wanted to join us, it would still be 2015 before a plan like that could be put into effect,” Lawrence said.
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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.