Open meeting gaffe delayed Townsend interview with Stockbridge police chief

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TOWNSEND — The town's failure to post a public meeting delayed a planned interview with Townsend's top police chief pick.

Stockbridge Police Chief Robert Eaton was the unanimous choice of the Police Chief Screening Committee and an informal residents committee that interviewed three candidates on Tuesday.

Eaton returned to Townsend on Friday morning for a more in-depth interview with the Screening Committee and residents' committee member Kym Craven, director of Public Safety Strategies Group, an organization that conducts assessments for police departments. The 9 a.m. meeting was canceled, however, because it was not posted in accordance with the state's Open Meeting Law.

Interim Town Administrator James Kreidler initially said he did not believe the meeting needed to be posted because it was a continuation of a previously posted meeting. Upon further review of the law at the request of a Sun reporter Friday morning, Kreidler canceled the meeting and decided to have Eaton meet individually with committee members.

Kreidler also cited in his reasoning a 2013 decision from the Attorney General's Office that found Ashby selectmen had violated the law in holding a postponed meeting without posting.

Before those separate interviews occurred, Eaton and Kreidler agreed it would be best to wait until a meeting could be scheduled for next week, and to have it properly posted.

In light of other recent Open Meeting Law complaints against the town, Eaton said he felt it is in the best interest of the integrity of the process to wait for a public interview with the whole committee.

BadgeQuest, the hiring consultant employed by the town in its police chief search, had scheduled an assessment center for the three finalists for Friday. That assessment was canceled Tuesday in favor of the committee interview with Eaton.

Townsend has been without a permanent police chief since September, when longtime Chief Erving Marshall Jr. retired after 38 years on the force.

Eaton has been employed as Stockbridge police chief for two years, and has one year left of his contract there. The Stockbridge Board of Selectmen renewed his contract for three more years.

Eaton said Stockbridge Town Administrator Jorja-Ann Marsden was aware he had applied for the Townsend job, but he wasn't sure if the town's selectmen knew.

Two members of the board on Friday said they had not been notified about Eaton's candidacy.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter and Tout @alanamelanson.


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