Friday, November 12, 2010
It must be a slow-motion nightmare for many of the people involved in the Selectmen’s decisions to place Carlisle Police Chief John Sullivan and Sgt. Kevin Cardonne on paid administrative leave, pending the result of investigations regarding police management. Both Sullivan and Cardonne have worked in Carlisle for many years. What must they be feeling? The five members of the Board of Selectmen volunteered for their post knowing there would be tough assignments, but probably never anticipated facing anything like this.
What happened? Who made the allegations? Are they true or false? What does this mean for Chief Sullivan and Sgt. Cardonne? How will it impact the police force? People close to the investigation are not talking. This information black-out made sense on October 22 when the Selectmen first announced Sullivan’s leave. However, the longer the investigation continues the more damage is done by the silence.
In the absence of facts, town residents are sharing a variety of theories and rumors. These rumors don’t help anyone – they don’t help the Chief or the Sergeant and they don’t help the town’s confidence in the police force.
The board is right to keep personnel-related issues and unverified allegations confidential. However, they should share what information they can as quickly as possible. The Selectmen placed the Police Chief on leave over two and a half weeks ago. Cardonne was placed on leave a week later, on October 29. However, Cardonne’s leave was only made public five days later, on November 3, after the Mosquito learned about it independently and asked for verification. What good was being served by the delay?
The public has a legitimate concern and right to know about the status of the investigation. When will it be finished? What are the possible actions the Selectmen are considering?
The Selectmen are working with Town Counsel to resolve the issue. They have been meeting in closed-door sessions, saying at first only that they were discussing “strategy with respect to litigation.” On Tuesday evening, Chair John Williams said they would discuss three topics. He announced, “The board will take a vote to go into executive session to discuss complaints and charges against a public officer, to discuss strategy with respect to litigation and to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining.” Town Administrator Tim Goddard later said that the three topics were separate and that Chief Sullivan waived his right to be present. Sgt. Cardonne was not discussed.
In the meantime, Lt. Leo Crowe continues to both handle his regular duties and fills in for Chief Sullivan. Crowe was asked whether he thought if, once the Selectmen finish their work, it might be possible for Sgt. Cardonne or Chief Sullivan to return.He would not answer specific questions about the investigation. “Ask the Selectmen. I don’t know,” he said.
However, Crowe stressed that the police force is coping with being short-staffed. Police officers are working overtime and a part-time officer is taking extra shifts. “We’re doing just fine. Public safety is not compromised.” Asked how the disruption would affect long-term morale in the department, he replied, “I’m not sure yet.”
The Selectmen deserve thanks for their efforts to sort out the allegations fairly. After their meeting on Tuesday, November 9, they released a statement urging patience (see page 5.) Hopefully, the Selectmen will share as much information as possible in the coming days, to minimize rumors and strengthen public confidence. ∆
That is the question Marilyn Harte posed on the editorial page of the October 29 Mosquito. I am beginning to believe that the Highland Building is becoming symbolic of the challenges we face as a town. We are a town that is confronted with an increasingly complex state regulatory environment, yet we are a town that is mostly run by volunteers, all of whom have day jobs. We are a town that has collected tax money in advance for “Community Preservation” with the understanding that the state would match it, yet the state is no longer doing so. We continue to suffer high property taxes yet our population is aging and increasingly considering them to be unfair.
The Highland Building is still sitting pretty much as it has been since the town voted in 2009 to “preserve” it until we could figure out how to use it. The School Committee, which was responsible for the building until last year, recommended that it be torn down as they estimated it would cost upwards of $2,000,000 to make it usable. Since then, the Selectmen have taken over the building and charged the Highland Stabilization Committee with the job of stabilizing and determining possible future uses for it. The $445,000 “stabilization” price tag that was mentioned in the editorial is just a down payment towards making it usable. Meanwhile, the regulatory environment has become more restrictive, and the building is barely holding its own. To date, little has been done, as three sets of prospective bidders have shied away due to the great uncertainty about what they would run into. No further bids will go out until the spring.
To assist the Stabilization Committee, we’ve hired an architect to help with planning and site design. After we received one bid for painting, the architect stated that “It’s not worth $87,000 to paint this building.” We should ask ourselves “Is it worth $2,000,000 to stabilize it and ultimately to make the Highland Building useable?” Before we answer that, we should first ask ourselves, “How will this building be used?” Seems like we have the cart before the horse. Once we determine how it will serve the town, we can then finalize the cost estimate to complete it, and vote, up or down, whether we should proceed to complete it. Surely we know enough by now to be able to suggest potential uses and our architect should have enough to go on to complete a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to complete a project of this magnitude and complexity. Until then, the prudent path would be to stop further spending on the building. Let’s get our facts together and present them to the town in May, armed with the knowledge of the true total cost and benefit. ∆
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