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Behind-the-scenes talks continue over fate of Williamstown Police sergeant

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williamstown select board interviews debra j. jarvis (copy)

Williamstown Select Board members met last Friday to interview town manager candidates. This week, they continue to work to resolve questions over the future employment of Sgt. Scott E. McGowan, who was placed on paid administrative leave March 1 and became the subject of three inquiries into his conduct and future with the Williamstown Police Department. On Tuesday, the board held its second executive session within a week. 

WILLIAMSTOWN — For the second time in a week, Williamstown’s top officials cited an exemption to the Open Meeting Law to speak privately Tuesday about a legal matter believed to concern the future of a longtime police sergeant.

And a clock was ticking: A Civil Service hearing was set for 9 a.m. Wednesday that concerned the town’s investigation into a damning report from rank-and-file police that Sgt. Scott E. McGowan engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer.

Later Tuesday, the Wednesday hearing was rescheduled for Nov. 16.

A disciplinary hearing scheduled for last Thursday was canceled abruptly, after the board held its first executive session that same day, suggesting that settlement talks were underway. Interim Town Manager Charles Blanchard declined to say last week whether Williamstown is trying to work out a severance package with McGowan.

The hearing was moved to Wednesday of this week.

McGowan, meantime, is accusing the town of retaliating against him for exposing conduct by other officers, including the inappropriate use, by some, of the state’s Criminal Justice Information System.

Officers, though, claim that McGowan is unfit to serve — a view they detailed in a letter to officials last winter that resulted in McGowan being placed on paid administrative leave.

Reports by The Eagle this year detailed questionable conduct by McGowan, including altering police records after he reportedly assaulted a Williams College student.

David A. Russcol, McGowan’s Boston attorney, declined to say whether he is representing the sergeant on the employment matter. Last week, Russcol filed a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaint on McGowan’s behalf.

The postponement of Wednesday’s Civil Service hearing lends support to the belief that Williamstown is seeking to reach an accord with McGowan that would not involve a public airing of the findings of the town’s investigation into McGowan. 

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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