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Selectmen Gave Chief Two Weeks to Contact Them on Contract



The Board of Selectmen emerged from a closed- door executive session held during its October 22 meeting to announce that Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin had two weeks – until this past Monday, November 5, – to contact the board about the

issues it raised in a March 26 letter about contract negotiations with him. [Editor's Note: The Town Crier printed excerpts from that letter in the October 12 issue.]

Chairman Michael Walsh made the announcement, also noting his board would defer any action until November 5 on implementing Article 32 of the town's by-laws. Enacted in 1998, Article 32 specifies the process for selecting a new police chief, including the formation of a Police Chief Selection Review Committee within 30 days after notification is made of the non-renewal of the incumbent chief 's contract. O'Loughlin was notified of his contract's non-renewal through a September 30 letter.

"The Board of Selectmen acknowledges the public's interests in understanding why it decided not to renew the Chief 's contract, but respectfully, this is a personnel matter," said Christopher Brown of the Framingham-based Petrini & Associates law firm – which is acting as a special legal counsel

to the Board of Selectmen – in a statement issued

to the Town Crier on October 23. "Although the Chief is a public official, the Board as the Chief 's employer is still limited in what it can say and what information can be provided. The Chief is well aware of the issue that has brought the Board to this point. The Board communicated its concerns with him in the course of its discussions with him and in writing earlier this year. The Chief unfortunately has not responded to the Board's last communication with him or otherwise addressed the Board's concerns."

Continuing, the statement said: "I suspect you've spoken with or read emails from Chief O'Loughlin's counsel with this narrative that the language in

the Chief 's contract somehow 'boxes in' the Town to continue to employ the Chief until 2021. This

is an incorrect, and frankly, absurd reading of the contract. Although there was an attempt by the Town and the Chief to negotiate a new agreement, the negotiation was not successful. Without any substantive response or engagement by the Chief in response to the Board's concerns this past spring, and no further discussions with the Chief about

a new agreement since January, a majority of the Board decided that the Chief 's contract should not be renewed. This was a valid exercise of the Board's rights under the contract."

Brown's statement concluded: "Although nothing in the contract prevents the Chief from continuing to try to negotiate a new agreement with the Board which addresses the Board's previously communicated concerns, the Board has heard nothing since it notified the Chief of this issue other than veiled threats of litigation from his counsel, and before that had heard nothing from the Chief since its last meeting with him in January."

O'Loughlin's attorney, Ernest Horn of Mendon had these comments: "The chief remains committed to completing contract negotiations with the board. He has and remains available to address any issues the board may have. The chief has offered to attend meetings each and every time he noticed his

contract on the agenda. Each time, he spoke directly with the chairman or

the Town Administrator. Each time, he was informed that, for various logistical reasons, the board was not ready to meet with him.

"The chief is available to discuss any issues or concerns the board may have with his job performance. The chief has absolutely nothing to hide and is fully prepared to respond to any specific issues. The chief reserves all rights he has or may have relative to this dispute, including, but not limited to, legal action. Town counsel's position that our interpretation of the chief 's contract is 'absurd' is why we have a court system. If lawyers always agreed on legal issues, there would be no need for judicial review," Horn concluded.




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