Written by Grace Lommel : DEXTER – The crowded Dexter Town Council chamber was shocked into silence when Dexter Police Chief James Emerson stood up and asked Town Manager David Pearson bluntly, "Was your job on the line because of me?"
Pearson replied, "I was told (by Council members) that my future with the town was bleak."
Emerson's question came during the public comment after the Dexter Town Council members voted at its Feb. 10 meeting to only renew Pearson's contract until Sept. 1, 2011.
Pearson had surprised the council last month by requesting that his two-year contract be renewed for only one year until February 2012. The council voted to table the issue until the next monthly meeting.
So at the last meeting, the council took up Pearson's contract issue again. The original motion to extend Pearson's contract until July 2011 was amended by Steve Gudroe to September 1, 2011 and passed, 6-1. Andre Robichaud was the lone dissenting vote, saying only that "Dave was railroaded."
"It's been controversial regarding the police chief," Pearson admitted. "(The council and I) have reached a situation where there are differences in philosophies and points of view on the charter and personnel policies. The council is taking action that I'm not comfortable with and I've become a lightning rod."
Last October, the town's four full-time police officers signed a letter of no confidence in Emerson, and the chief was put on probation for 90 days. An investigation by Pearson and Bob Schwartz of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association revealed that Emerson didn't do anything illegal, but indicated that the chief failed to carry out some of the duties outlined in his job description.
"It's the appropriate thing to do," said Chairman Roger Brawn defending the council's actions. "The role of the council and town manager is open to interpretation and past practice."
"It's an untenable situation for Dave," admitted Councilman Rick Goodwin. "Not many people are happy."
The contentious contract issue included citizens threatening to start a recall election as well as demanding the council's individual member's opinions.
Pearson supporter Michael Ricker protested the council's actions saying, "There could be a recall election. You could be dismissed if there's an interim town council elected." Ricker stated that he's consulted an attorney familiar with municipal law. "Something's rotten in Denmark," Ricker concluded.
But Brawn told the citizens, "We don't feel we are overstepping our authority."
Brawn went on to close off further discussion noting that "we don't have to have public participation at this part of the meeting."
Ricker countered that "the power is in the people of Dexter."
Pearson reassured the citizens that "Everybody on the council is doing what they believe is in the best interest of Dexter."
Councilman David Clukey asked Pearson, "Do you feel you've been threatened in any way?" Pearson replied, "It was made clear to me that my ability to continue as town manager was contingent upon certain actions I make that I'm not comfortable with regarding an employee."
Pearson cited his accomplishments during his two year tenure as keeping taxes down while keeping services up and getting $4 million in grant money for the town, something he feels "pretty good about."
Council member Peter Haskell said after the meeting that the "police department was just one issue" regarding Pearson's contract date.
Robichaud disputed this, noting that Pearson's recent performance review was "stellar."
|Back to News||Home||Print This Story|