CROYDON — Months of controversy may be finally coming to an end as voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the town’s one-man police department.
Saturday’s special town meeting gave voters the chance to reverse a surprise March town meeting warrant to eliminate the police department and go with a police service contract from the Newport Police Department.
The March vote, which was later deemed illegal by the town’s counsel, had 48 voters in favor of the contract and 36 in favor of keeping the department. At Saturday’s special town meeting, 121 voters favored retaining the police department, while 51 voted to seek the contract.
“If this had gone the other way today, at least this group was an informed body,” said Police Chief Richard Lee.
Lee challenged the March vote, saying people were uninformed and that the vote itself was illegally conducted. The March vote surprised many of the town’s residents and spurred the petition for the special town meeting.
The ensuing controversy led to the resignation of two of the town’s three selectmen, Gary Quimby and Reagan Clarke. The lone remaining selectman, Joe Marko, caused more heat when he called an unnoticed emergency meeting and appointed Ian Underwood to the board. The board is still without a third selectman.
Marko and Underwood have previously said that Saturday’s vote would be non-binding and that they had no intention of abolishing the police department. But on Saturday, Marko said he would have pushed to get rid of the department if the voters had favored doing so.
“If it had been a landslide we would have had to look at the Newport contract,” Marko said.
Now, Marko wants the town to start investigating alleged anonymous rumors concerning Lee. Marko said it is time to take a “deep dive” and get everything out into the open.
“There are closed files that we’re going to purge and bring to light,” Marko said.
Last year, the town hired MRI, a consulting firm, to assess the department, and Marko said he expects to receive a report in the coming days.
“As soon as we get it we are going to release it,” Marko said.
Lee said Saturday he wants to retire from the job he’s held for 19 years on his terms, and when he’s ready. That may not be anytime soon, however, and Lee said the controversy is not going to force him out.
“I’ll quit when I’m escorted out of the building,” he said.