West Tisbury selectmen turn attention to chief’s contract

Last week, West Tisbury selectmen named Sgt. Dan Rossi to the job of police chief. The final step in the search process will be to negotiate a new contract, Richard Knabel, chairman of the selectmen, told The Times.

Mr. Rossi replaces Chief Beth Toomey, who retired in mid-April. He has acted as interim chief since her retirement. Selectmen plan to use the transition as an opportunity to revisit the contract requirements and terms.

From scratch

Mr. Knabel said that throughout Ms. Toomey’s 16-year tenure the town had simply renewed the existing contract. Selectmen had planned to make a change before Chief Toomey announced her retirement.

“We had told her that when the last one expired, we would not automatically re-sign that one,” Mr. Knabel told The Times in a telephone interview. “This will be a new contract from scratch. It will not happen immediately and it will require give-and-take. I want evaluation on a regular basis. The old contract with Beth Toomey made evaluation voluntary ‘when and if’, and after the first year they didn’t do one.”

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell agreed. “We will need to review the old contract, and we will need a whole new contract given the loose ends from the old police chief contract,” she said in a telephone conversation. “Comp time may be an issue to discuss because it was an issue in the past. December first, when we meet again, we will dig into it.”

Chief Toomey’s contract automatically renewed every three years and provided for payment of a portion of earned compensatory time when her employment ended, a point of some controversy when town officials calculated what the final payout number might be.

According to town records, on her retirement date, Ms. Toomey received a total of $22,032 in accumulated benefits. This included $10,829 in vacation leave and $11,203 in sick leave. She was not paid for any compensatory time.

The selectmen said they plan to examine existing police chief contracts in other Island towns as they develop the contract they would like to offer Chief Rossi he said.

At the time of her retirement, Chief Toomey earned $97,471 annually. The contract he signed as acting chief pays Mr. Rossi $89,000 annually.

In house

Selectmen Knabel and Mitchell announced their decision to name Mr. Rossi police chief at their regular Wednesday meeting.

Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, was not present. Mr. Manter, a police sergeant and finalist for the job, has not participated in the search process and was off-Island Wednesday.

The announcement followed a series of interviews on Friday and Saturday. Ms. Mitchell explained her decision to choose Mr. Rossi this way: “He has pitch-perfect feel for the town.”

Mr. Knabel said that the selection of a new police chief was one of the selectmen’s most important responsibilities. “We have in Dan Rossi an officer ready, willing and certainly able to lead the department,” he said.

After praising their in-house candidate, Mr. Knabel and he and Ms. Mitchell wanted the search process to “satisfy ourselves that our internal candidate was as strong as we thought.” Both agreed that the process did that.

“After the interviews on Saturday any questions were completely removed,” Mr. Knabel said.

“I would second that,” Ms. Mitchell said.

For his part, Mr. Rossi was happy the process had concluded and he expected a seamless transition. “I am taking a sigh of relief,” he said.

Back to work

In other business last week, the selectmen signed a letter of commitment, as required by the federal government, to begin the process of forming an Island-wide emergency planning committee. The selectmen also conferred upon John Christensen, town emergency manager, the title of “community emergency response coordinator.”

Mr. Christensen said that with the signed letter and the agreement of the other Island towns, a three-step process begins that leads to becoming a state and federally recognized emergency planning committee. That designation makes it possible for the Island to apply for emergency management funding grants.

Mr. Knabel asked if the emergency planning committee would produce a protocol for the implementation of Code Red, the reverse-dial community warning system that was first used during Hurricane Earl. Mr. Christensen said, “That would probably be a priority.”

Mr. Knabel said, “It should be.”

And, Janet Banks agreed to Mr. Knabel’s request that she help to coordinate the planning and preparations for the town holiday party on December 9 at the Ag Hall. Volunteers are asked to contact Mrs. Banks.

There will be no meeting of the selectmen on Wednesday, November 24.