Former Police Chief David Rossi made an excellent decision when he withdrew as a participant on the screening committee that will help pick his replacement.
Clearly, the decision to add Rossi to that committee was not met well by some members of the patrolmen’s union, and Rossi’s continued presence on the committee would do little to help the perception that selectmen already have a candidate in mind and are manipulating the process to get that person into the job.
In the interest of a “fair and equitable” process, Rossi withdrew, and the board of selectmen accepted.
Selectman Margaret Serpa voted, along with chairman Arthur Smadbeck, to accept Rossi’s resignation from the committee, but failed to disclose her personal relationship with the former chief. She is his mother-in-law.
Such conflicts are difficult to avoid on the Island, but there’s no reason why Serpa shouldn’t have mentioned it again on Tuesday. She shouldn’t assume everyone already knows, especially given that their last names are not the same.
It’s a level of transparency that’s needed when the public perception is that the process is shrouded in secrecy.
But even with Rossi out of the picture, the process of picking a new chief is flawed. The selection of Integrity Testing LLC to conduct the search has also been called into question.
Records show Integrity Testing was the low bidder of three companies that applied to do the search. Integrity Testing includes three former police chiefs, but the principal is Alfred Donovan, the former Tewksbury police chief, whose department made headlines in 2007 when it was sued. According to a Boston Globe story, the former chief, who was named in the suit, attempted to dissuade a woman from making a criminal complaint against a police dispatcher in an alleged sexual assault.
A Google search also produces a story in the Eagle Tribune that should have at least raised questions for the Edgartown board of selectmen. The Tewksbury dispatcher, who was convicted of assault to rape and indecent assault and battery, was Donovan’s brother-in-law, according to the newspaper, and Donovan is the one who signed off on the internal investigation that found insufficient evidence to discipline the dispatcher.
The two other companies are also operated by former police chiefs. A bid by Public Safety Consultants LLC, just $500 more than Integrity Testing’s lowest bid, was marked “received late.” The principal of that company is A. Wayne Sampson, the retired Shrewsbury police chief.
The final bidder was BadgeQuest, a company operated by retired Plymouth Police Chief Robert Pomeroy. That bid was nearly double what Integrity Testing offered to do the job for, according to records.
In both cases, Google searches of those chiefs also bring up stories that should at least raise questions to be addressed before making a decision to hire them or not.
The public is right to wonder why no questions were asked, particularly of the company awarded the contract.
It’s also unclear why selectmen set a limit of $10,000 to do this review of candidates. BadgeQuest, for example, suggested an optional $3,000 background investigation of the final candidate, which would appear to be a good idea, but that’s not included in Integrity Testing’s scope of services, and seems to be an oversight by the board of selectmen in its request for proposals.
Selectmen need to follow the lead of their former chief and reflect. The town has a solid acting chief in place, so there’s no reason to rush the process to find Rossi’s replacement. It would seem prudent to hit the pause button, reset the game clock, and work out a process that restores the public’s trust, even if it costs a few more bucks to do it right.