HINSDALE -- Amid a groundswell of support, the Select Board this week took steps to ensure Police Chief Nancy Daniels is able to retain her post until she can complete mandatory training.
More than 75 people swamped Town Hall for the meeting to press the board to act amid concern that board Chairwoman Bonnie Conner might delay the measure, which directs the board to sign a letter requesting a waiver from the state that would extend her deadline to complete the training. It was approved by a 3-0 vote.
The concerns reflect a perception among some in town -- including the chief -- that the chairwoman has been excessively scrutinizing Daniels since Conner's election in May. Conner denies acting inappropriately.
Daniels, a 13-year department veteran who was promoted to chief in January, must receive Massachusetts Police Training Commission certification by Nov. 20, but she failed the course in early 2013 and an ankle injury prevented her from taking it again in August.
Because the course is offered infrequently in Western Massachusetts, Daniels' next opportunity won't come until 2014. A waiver from the state would extend that deadline until the next available course is offered in Springfield in February.
"[Daniels'] contract states that the town recognizes that they have a responsibility to help her in her training and such," said attorney Mark T. Brennan of Pittsfield, speaking on the chief's behalf. "I want to remind the town of that fact. What we're doing is trying to keep a professional person in a professional position here."
Daniels told The Eagle she retained Brennan because she felt persecuted by Conner.
"I sent a letter on Oct. 9 asking for my [waiver] letter to be signed and Chairwoman Conner refused to sign it," Daniels said. "That's when [Brennan] basically stepped up."
The matter then became public, as Daniels and Brennan attached the item to Wednesday's Select Board meeting agenda for deliberation by the board in open session.
Conner, on the other hand, said the board couldn't vote to formally request the waiver at their meeting last week because the item wasn't part of the agenda.
According to Conner, the public outcry seen Wednesday was the result of Selectman Bruce Marshall and Daniels riling people up.
"You'd have to ask the chief and [Selectman] Bruce Marshall what brought all those people out tonight," Conner said after the raucous meeting.
At the meeting, Marshall was in Daniels' corner, saying he "didn't know what's taken so long to sign [the waiver]" and that "[Daniels has] done a fine job for us."
Several police officers also attended to meeting to support the chief.
"We have 100 percent confidence in Chief Daniels," said Officer Jack Elliott. "We're all together, we're a team and we're all behind Chief Daniels."
Before the waiver issue surfaced, Daniels said, challenges were raised about the circumstances of her appointment as well as the purchase of new vehicle for the department -- neither of which have been successful.
Brennan said Daniels' vehicle and home were vandalized after last week's Select Board meeting when the waiver was discussed but not acted upon. Brennan gave the Select Board pictures of the damage. It was unclear whether there was any connection.
"I think some people in this town should be pretty ashamed of themselves for the way they've treated Chief Daniels," he said. "I think the town should step back up a little bit and give her an opportunity to do her job in a professional manner."
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