The appointment of Paul J. Shastany as Bourne’s Director of Police Services has come into question. An opinion rendered by Town Counsel Robert S. Troy suggests that Mr. Shastany’s appointment by former Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi was a violation of the Bourne Town Charter.
Mr. Troy’s opinion was in response to a request from the Bourne Board of Selectmen as to whether the current organization of the Bourne Police Department is “lawfully constituted and consistent with the requirements of the Town of Bourne Charter.” In an email to Bourne’s Interim Town Administrator Timothy J. King, dated Sunday, October 3, Mr. Troy said the answer is no.
Former Bourne selectman Donald J. Pickard said he raised the issue with both current board chairman Peter J. Meier and Assistant Town Administrator Glenn D. Cannon around the time of Mr. Schiavi’s departure as town administrator in early September.
“It’s not about Paul Shastany,” Mr. Pickard said. “Obviously he’s eminently qualified and has a great reputation in the field. It is strictly about the charter, which says ‘chief of police.’”
Mr. Meier brought the question to the attention of the board of selectmen during its September 7 meeting. Mr. Meier asked if the board members felt the need to seek an opinion on the matter from Mr. Troy.
“I think we should,” member Mary Jane Mastrangelo said. “We should know, one way or the other, if there’s something we need to do or ask Town Meeting to do, or if there’s some other action, we need to know.”
Member Judith M. Froman made a motion to reach out to Mr. Troy for his opinion and unanimously approved by the board.
In support of his claim, Mr. Troy pointed to Section 5-7 of the town charter, which states, “There shall be a police department which shall be under the control and supervision of a chief of police.” It is beyond the powers of the town administrator, as stipulated in Section 4 of the charter, Mr. Troy said, to convey the duties of the chief of police to a director of police services.
“It is uncontroverted that there is no provision in the charter enabling the town administrator to bestow the powers delineated in Section 5-7 on any individual other than a chief of police,” Mr. Troy said.
Chief Shastany was brought out of retirement and appointed interim director of police services by Mr. Schiavi back in January. The administrator said he anticipated the appointment to last approximately six months while the search was underway for a permanent chief.
Prior to Bourne, Chief Shastany headed up the police departments in Braintree and Stoughton. He started his career as a permanent reserve officer in Natick and a district investigations supervisor for the Boston Housing Police. He spent 28 years in the Framingham Police Department, ultimately rising to the rank of lieutenant before his appointment in February 2010 as chief of police in Stoughton.
An extension of Chief Shastany’s employment contract with the Town of Bourne was authorized by Mr. Schiavi before his departure as Town Administrator in early September. Mr. Troy noted that he was not consulted with regard to Chief Shastany’s initial employment contract or the amended agreement.
Mr. Troy pointed out that the amended contract “fails to cite or reference any provision of the Town of Bourne Charter supporting this assertion of authority nor even a single reference to the town charter authorized by the General Court.”
Mr. Troy said that both the initial employment contract with Chief Shastany, dated January 20, and the amended agreement, dated September 1, are in violation of the town charter. The duties of the chief of police, as detailed in the town charter, he said, “cannot be assigned to a position other than a police chief.”
The situation is compounded by the fact that, under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 415 of the Acts of 1987, because Chief Shastany is retired and older than the age of 65, special legislation would have to be approved by the state Legislature to make him eligible for appointment as Bourne’s chief of police.
In addition, Mr. Troy said, the recent removal of the Bourne chief of police position from civil service requirements would have no effect on that requirement of state law. The state Legislature enjoys total and complete authority to “sanction any municipal action, including a temporary measure that is inconsistent with provisions of the charter,” he said.
Mr. Troy encouraged Mr. King to “take action to ensure compliance with the town’s charter by appointing a qualified individual to the position of chief of police.” He also confirmed that it is within the authority of an interim town administrator to make such an appointment.
“In my view, the charter vests unqualified authority in the acting town administrator to exercise the powers and duties delineated in Section 4-6 of the charter,” Mr. Troy said.
Article 4-6 of the charter details the powers and duties of the town administrator. Mr. Troy also cautioned that the town charter is not to be viewed as an advisory document.
“Indeed, it is the structural and legal basis for the town’s exercise of the authority granted to it by the Legislature after the charter commission and numerous charter review committees and Town Meeting voters requested the General Court to enact it,” he said.