Hooksett police join councilors, slam commission
“We collectively as a department share your disappointment with being kept in the dark,” police prosecutor Kimberly Chabot said, reading from a prepared statement from a “large majority of the police department.”
“Given the state of things, we feel hindered. Over the past few years, much of the department's energy and resources have been directed by the Police Commission to pursue the personal agendas of a few to the detriment of the department and the detriment of the town.”
On Sept. 13, the Town Council voted (4-3) no confidence in Commission Chairwoman Joanne McHugh and Commissioners Kenneth Scherer and Clark Karolian.
Chabot said police department employees asked her to represent them due to “a real fear of retaliation by the commission.”
The statement referenced delays in necessary promotions, vendors not being paid in a timely fashion, day-to-day business being hindered by the commission's insistence on approving all expenditures, and employees being “left hanging” on questions of pay and benefits.
McHugh and Scherer spoke at the council meeting later in the night. McHugh made no comment on the council's earlier vote of “no confidence,” saying: “I choose to be of the positive attitude and go from there.”
Hooksett has been without a permanent police chief for more than year.
Chief Stephen Agrafiotis was put on administrative leave in September 2011 for violating town budget rules. He resigned last January.
Capt. Jon Daigle was appointed acting chief, but recently submitted a letter to the council withdrawing himself from consideration to be chief. He cited the Police Commission's failure to set goals for the department or complete his evaluation.
Council Chairman James Sullivan asked McHugh when the commission would be hiring a permanent police chief. McHugh offered no date, insisting that the process had suffered unforeseeable delays but the selection was being “actively discussed.”
Chabot's statement praised Public Safety Specialists' Group (PSSG) as well as acting Chief Daigle for their work in rebuilding the department. It warned, however, that in spite of their work, “we are not able to accomplish our mission if we continue down our current course. Our future is most uncertain in the hands of this commission.”
Kym Craven and Rick Bailey of PSSG gave a presentation emphasizing the progress that had been made in the department since last year's audit of the department, citing an improved department culture, greater internal trust and communication, a closer relationship with the Hooksett community, a more consistent and fairer disciplinary system and new equipment.
After the presentation, the council questioned the PSSG officials for 90 minutes, alternating between queries on technical matters and pointed questions regarding the search for a new police chief and PSSG's relationship with the Police Commission and their opinions on the commission's performance.
When asked by Councilor Vincent Lembo Jr. if the commission were “micro-managing the department,” Bailey responded after a pause that “in some respects, they are.”
Brendan Clogston may be reached at email@example.com.
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