The Bourne Board of Selectmen has approved the creation of an Interim Director of Police Services position in an effort to keep current director of police services Paul J. Shastany employed by the Town of Bourne. Approval came following an at-times emotional public hearing during which supporters and opponents of the selectmen’s action voiced their opinions.
The selectmen unanimously approved creating the position during an emergency meeting held last Thursday, October 7. The vote by the board’s members was taken in public following a similar vote taken in private during an executive session held last Wednesday.
The issue of Chief Shastany’s employment with the town came about when the board requested an opinion from Bourne Town Counsel Robert S. Troy as to whether the chief’s appointment constituted a violation of the Bourne Town Charter. Mr. Troy’s opinion was that it did.
Mr. Troy pointed out that the section of the charter relating to the Bourne Police Department states that the department shall be run by a Chief of Police. There is nothing in the charter allowing for a director of police services, he said.
Mr. Shastany was appointed director of police services by former Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi in January with the retirement of former Chief of Police Dennis R. Woodside. Mr. Schiavi said he anticipated Chief Shastany’s employment to last about six months while the search was conducted for a new chief of police.
An amended contract extending Chief Shastany’s employment in Bourne was dated September 1 and is in effect through June 30, 2022. That extended contract led to the question of a possible charter violation being submitted to Mr. Troy.
During last Thursday’s public hearing, following discussion in executive session the previous day, Mr. Troy confirmed that the action being taken by the selectmen “comports with the town charter” and the town administrator’s appointing powers as outlined in Section 4-6 of the charter.
Chief Shastany spoke in his own defense during the hearing. The chief noted that questions of a possible charter violation arose in the aftermath of Mr. Schiavi’s departure. Chief Shastany said he knows Mr. Schiavi to be an honorable individual, and he took exception to insinuations that the former administrator had done something underhanded.
“The only reason I came here was for him, and I resent any besmirchment of his reputation or the judgements and the decisions he made,” he said.
Chief Shastany said he had worked with troubled departments in both Stoughton and Braintree before being brought to Bourne by Mr. Schiavi. The chief said he wants to continue the work he has started in Bourne, and he argued against the concept of “politicizing the police department.”
“The common problem is, when elected folks consciously choose to insert themselves into professional policing, for other reasons I don’t know, it’s a problem,” he said.
Former Bourne selectman Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis urged the selectmen not to approve the new position. Mr. Ellis said that appointing a director of police services was in opposition to what Bourne’s residents wanted when they first approved the town charter. He described a director of police services as potentially someone from outside the town with no familiarity of its residents or neighborhoods.
“The Bourne department is respected,” he said. “It’s got professionals, and that’s what we want, people who belong in the Town of Bourne, know the Town of Bourne, are professionals and know how to operate.”
Bourne selectman Jared P. MacDonald said he “respectfully disagreed” with Mr. Ellis’s characterization of the Bourne Police Department and urged adoption of the director position to keep Chief Shastany in place. Mr. MacDonald, a former patrolman in Bourne, said the department suffered for many years with a lack of leadership under former chiefs John A. Ford Jr., Earl V. Baldwin and Dennis R. Woodside.
“What we have done with creating this position is brought in a professional who has been to a number of other departments and made corrections in a similar manner,” Mr. MacDonald said. “I think it is very important that we keep him on board and provide him with the opportunity to continue to provide us with a better police department.”
Bourne Police Lieutenant Brandon M. Esip also called for the selectmen not to approve the interim director of police services position. Lt. Esip said his reasoning had nothing to do with Chief Shastany’s credentials or what he has done since his arrival in Bourne.
The lieutenant criticized Mr. Schiavi for not meeting with and interviewing two people within the Bourne police department who were qualified for promotion to the position of chief of police. Lt. Esip denounced the process that dismissed the competence of two members of the department and questioned how long the town might continue to resort to having an interim director in place over a police chief.
“I love this town,” he said, his voice catching in his throat. “I love those guys and girls. I’d do anything for them, but I don’t like what I’m seeing here. We have a process, we have an ability to do that. Let’s follow that and move forward with that.”
Assistant Town Administrator Glenn D. Cannon reminded everyone that the director of police services position would only be temporary. Mr. Cannon added that language in Chief Shastany’s contract calls for him to step aside once a new police chief has been appointed.
Mr. Cannon recalled that residents at Annual Town Meeting last May voted to remove the chief of police in Bourne from civil service requirements. That vote still requires approval from the state legislature, which has not happened yet, he said.
“If we were to hire a chief through civil service,” he said, “we would probably be removing that chief sometime around the first of the year when the legislation passes, so it is a stopgap moment.”
Selectwoman Mary Jane Mastrangelo said the steps being taken by the board in creating the interim position follow the procedures outlined in the charter for establishing a position.
Ms. Mastrangelo also responded to criticism that the previous night’s executive session, which included a vote to approve the interim director position, constituted a lack of transparency. She said the emergency session last Thursday was held “so that there could be a public vote and the public could know what we were doing.”
“I don’t think there’s anyone involved in this that’s trying to do anything that’s negative,” she said. “We’re just people trying to do the right thing for the town and do it procedurally correct so we’re following our obligations as members of the board of selectmen and our responsibilities to the town.”
The selectmen voted unanimously to establish the position of interim director of police services and to keep Chief Shastany in that position until either a new chief of police is hired or the end of his contract on June 30, 2022.