SALEM — Weeks after resigning following a highly critical audit, former police chief Paul Donovan has decided he wants to be a selectman.

According to town records, Donovan has registered to run against Arthur Barnes for a seat in the March 12 election.

Donovan resigned at the end of last year under a cloud following release of an independent audit critical of the Salem Police Department’s internal investigations, culture and payroll practices.

Among other charges, the 177-page highly-redacted report alleged Donovan, while chief, worked private outside details during his regularly paid shifts.

The audit also blamed Donovan for an antagonistic relationship between the police department and town leaders.

Town Manager Chris Dillon secured Donovan’s early retirement with a $158,715 severance package. In his written response to the audit report, Donovan stated that he had intended to retire at the end of 2021.

Donovan’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

In the months leading up to the audit’s release in November, Donovan filed two lawsuits against the town. One was to overturn a two-day unpaid suspension in August for insubordination, the other was to allow his lawyer to review the unredacted audit report. Both have since been settled.

Court documents related to the lawsuits describe a heated exchange during a meeting between Donovan and Dillon on July 23 to discuss a complaint against police that had been brought to the town manager’s attention. The audit would later conclude Salem police did little to investigate complaints against its officers.

In an Aug. 6 memo, Dillon explained why he disciplined Donovan.

“Your behavior of cutting me off and not allowing me to speak was disrespectful and insubordinate. Your action clearly demonstrated that you do not respect me as town manager,” the memo states.

In Donovan’s appeal to overturn the disciplinary action, he accused Dillon of bullying him and becoming “increasingly unprofessional, rude and condescending.”

The topic of that July meeting is cited in the audit report. The police chief insisted that all citizen complaints had to be submitted in person at the police station through a standard form requiring complainants to sign under penalty of perjury.

The chief also accused Dillon of not complying with the department’s union contract by forwarding the complaint.

Audit investigators say in their report that town policy is clear in allowing a complaint to be filed through a town manager, and found the department’s standard form was designed to intimidate members of the public to keep them from filing complaints.