LACONIA — The Gilmanton police chief has filed a motion for contempt of court against town selectmen, alleging they are attempting to circumvent a prior ruling by authorizing an operational assessment of the police department.
In December 2017, the selectmen voted to adopt a series of police department policies regarding staffing and personnel, including hours of coverage, staffing levels, lengths of shifts, use of cruisers and when officers are permitted to travel outside town limits.
Two months later, in February, Chief Matt Currier filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Belknap County Superior Court, charging that selectmen had overstepped their authority and violated state law allowing police chiefs to have final say in directing department members and operations.
In July, Attorney Ed Philpot of Laconia, who is representing Currier, was granted his request for a temporary injunction, barring selectmen from implementing or enforcing the 17 so-called directives that were to become effective Jan. 1.
Currier asserts that he can’t implement the directives since they run contrary to his authority under state law, and that he had been given an ultimatum forcing him to either comply with the policies or risk disciplinary action, including firing.
Currier argued that complying with the request to turn over information including polygraph tests, interviews and other investigatory data may present an exposure risk as well as possible misuse.
Selectman maintain they hold the statutory right to adopt written formal policies concerning Currier and the police department.
A letter in the court file indicates the town has hired the law firm of Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella of Exeter, which has retained Municipal Resources, Inc. to perform an operational assessment of Gilmanton police to “provide a third-party, independent review of the department for the purpose of risk mitigation, and to receive recommendations for the more efficient management and operation of the department.”
In response, Philpot claims “the most telling evidence of the town’s ill-will” is the timing of the assessment, which, he argues, will allow selectmen access to much of the information Currier maintains he cannot disclose without breaching statutory obligations.
A contempt hearing is scheduled for Dec. 6 at 1:30 p.m.