DALTON — The town has both a new interim administrative police chief and a new interim town manager. One job was filled easily this week.
The other hiring came amid dispute.
Members of the Select Board voted unanimously Wednesday to ask Sandra Albano, the town's longtime accountant, to fill in for Kenneth E. Walto, who leaves his job as town manager next week after nearly 20 years.
But one member declined to back the hiring of Anthony J. Riello, a former Pittsfield police chief, to temporarily head up the Dalton Police Department. The board nonetheless hired Riello, 70, to serve as a civilian administrator of the force for up to six months until a newly named search committee finds possible replacements to former Chief Jeffrey E. Coe.
Riello starts work Monday. Albano, a 20-year veteran as town accountant, begins Aug. 23.
"I only want to do the best that I can do for the town of Dalton," Albano said.
In a Zoom meeting Wednesday, John F. Boyle took fellow members to task for recruiting an acting chief in early May, more than a month before Coe left the post.
The morning of this week's special meeting, Boyle circulated a May 7 letter from an official with the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association that said Riello had not been interested in the acting chief's job this spring because Coe still held the title of chief.
"It smells, it reeks," Boyle said of that recruitment effort. "You've brought grave discredit on the town."
Boyle had moved at the board's July 27 meeting to name a longtime sergeant, Christopher Furlong, to the acting chief post. Furlong has served since February as officer in charge and had the backing of eight of 10 officers in the department to become acting chief.
But Boyle saw that motion fail, even after two former chiefs spoke up on Furlong's behalf.
This week, one of those chiefs, John W. Bartels Jr., continued to question steps the board took to find an acting chief. Bartels is also a former Select Board chairman.
Robert W. Bishop Jr., the board current chairman, told Bartels in the Zoom session that the early recruitment was meant to help stabilize the department while Coe was on paid administrative leave. "It had nothing to do with this appointment," Bishop said of the job filled Wednesday.
Member Joseph A. Diver told Bartels that the board acted after it asked Walto to find an acting chief candidate. Town rules say the manager oversees the police chief. Diver said Walto didn't provide a candidate.
Diver said the board discussed next steps regarding the future of the chief's position in an executive session, then opted to recruit an acting chief. As he has before, Diver referred in vague terms to the board's belief the department needed new blood.
"There are leadership, management missteps," Diver said. "And that led us to where we are today."
On Thursday, in an interview, Bishop defended the board's handling of the opening. He declined to explain what missteps the board believes were taken in the police department, saying discussions occurred in executive session.
Though Riello opted not to speak with Dalton while Coe remained in the position, Bishop said the former Pittsfield chief agreed to meet recently. "He's got a lot of experience coming in and what's what really sold me," he said.
Bishop said in a call from his home that he didn't have information on hand about how much Riello will be paid. A request for that information is pending.
After leaving Pittsfield in 2007 after 11 years as chief, Riello went to Falmouth as that town's top cop, working until 2012. He recently served as interim chief in Suffield, Conn.
The board named Diver to a five-member search committee for a new chief. Other members are: Andrew Perenick, Amy Aldridge, Michael Hinkley and Geoffrey Powell. Powell is a Dalton police officer.
The panel also tapped five residents, including Albano, to make up a town manager screening committee that will forward candidates to the Select Board. Joining Albano in the effort are John Kelly, Louisa Horth, Jeffrey Noble and Steve Sears.
Larry Parnass can be reached at email@example.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-588-8341.