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Auburn landfill investigation continues

AUBURN — The investigation into alleged illegal dumping at the closed Auburn landfill is ongoing and Police Chief Edward Picard said he’s hoping residents will reserve judgment until all the details from the case have been revealed.

“There’s an ongoing criminal investigation. We’re about wrapping it up, but it’s being conducted by Rockingham County Attorney’s Office and the Auburn Police Department,” said Picard. “I think we’re probably in the ninth inning, but unfortunately, there’s nothing I can discuss ... on an ongoing investigation.

“Nobody’s pointing the finger at any one person,” he added. “It’s a complete investigation based on facts.”

Chris Fenerty, investigator for the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office, said he had no additional information to provide.

Meanwhile, Auburn’s elected Road Agent, Michael Dross, who police were reportedly investigating as the source of the illegal burial of scrap metal, tires, machine parts and more, was cleared in a report by an independent investigation from attorney Craig L. Staples.

Auburn selectmen, who hired Staples in November, released the findings at a Feb. 24 meeting.

Picard said he would have preferred if his department had been allowed to complete its investigation prior to the independent review being ordered.

“I would have definitely allowed the ongoing criminal investigation with the county attorney’s office and the Auburn Police Department to run its course,” said Picard. “I think that other action may have been premature, and certainly to release that information was counter-productive.”

Staples report indicated the source of the illegal dumping was not Dross, but likely his accuser, Darren Wetherbee.

In addition, Auburn Town Administrator Bill Herman said the town’s legal counsel has been asked to pursue a civil claim against Wetherbee for reimbursement of more than $50,000 in expenses the town incurred as a result of the removal of the waste from the landfill, investigation expenses and lab work related to additional allegations against Dross that he used ash from the town incinerator in the paving of Eaton Hill Road.

Those claims were deemed unfounded.

Selectmen have also referred the Staples report to the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity, said Herman.

In addition, Dross said he’s hired an attorney and filed a complaint with the Auburn Police Department against two investigating officers named in the Staples report.

“Just like the criminal investigation, we’re not at liberty to discuss it,” said Picard. “There is an ongoing internal investigation based on a complaint brought by somebody in town, which is what we have to do anytime there’s a complaint. Unfortunately, our (standard operating procedures) do not allow for me to engage in a conversation about that until its over.”

The Auburn Police Commission has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m., and Chairman David Dion said the commission has requested Picard provide an update on the ongoing criminal investigation, as well as possible insight into whether any internal disciplinary action is warranted. Due to the sensitive nature of the discussions, especially in relation to union employees, some of the meeting may be held in non-public session, said Dion.

Dross said he and Auburn police maintain a positive working relationship in spite of the ongoing investigations and legal proceedings.

“My issues are not with the whole police department, and the issues I do have are being taken care of,” he said. “If the police have an issue regarding road conditions or anything like that, we take care of it. Everybody is being professional.“I just keep doing the job I was elected to do, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

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