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Montague Police Chief Dodge in attendance for Saturday executive session

  • Montague Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge Recorder File Photo

  • The Montague Selectboard prepares for an executive session disciplinary hearing on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. From left to right are: Police Chief Charles "Chip" Dodge, Town Administrator Steve Ellis, Dodge's attorney Austin Joyce, and Selectman Michael Nelson, Richard Kuklewicz and Christopher Boutwell. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • The Montague Selectboard prepares for an executive session disciplinary hearing on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. From left to right are: Police Chief Charles "Chip" Dodge, Town Administrator Steve Ellis, Dodge's attorney Austin Joyce, and Selectman Michael Nelson. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline



Recorder Staff
Sunday, January 28, 2018

TURNERS FALLS — A closed-door Selectboard meeting “to discuss complaints and disciplinary action” against a town employee was held Saturday, with Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge in attendance.

Though Selectboard Chairman Richard Kuklewicz said no votes were taken, he said the board’s next executive session will be held Monday, Feb. 5, and that he felt the board “made steps through the process” during Saturday’s meeting.

“We hope at that meeting we’ll have something to report,” Kuklewicz said of the Feb. 5 session.

Town Administrator Steve Ellis declined to say expressly if Dodge — who is on paid administrative leave following alleged mishandling of prescription drop-box drugs at the police station — was at the center of Saturday’s hearing, which lasted from around 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dodge was joined at Saturday’s meeting by his wife and his attorney Austin Joyce, while Ellis and the selectmen — Kuklewicz, Christopher Boutwell and Michael Nelson — were joined by the town’s attorney, Timothy Zessin of KP Law.

Dr. Steve Martin, a primary care physician and visiting professor of social medicine at Harvard Medical School, was also allowed to stay for the executive session, leaving about 15 minutes after its start. Martin declined to comment on his reason for participating in the meeting, with Kuklewicz explaining, “we can’t discuss those things.”

“My role as a doctor has given me a real appreciation for confidentiality,” Martin said. “So I feel like I can’t directly comment as to why I was there.”

Joyce, representing Dodge, declined to comment following the meeting, but when asked if Feb. 5 would mark the end of discussions, Joyce replied “perhaps.”

After opening Saturday’s meeting, the three-member board unanimously voted, by roll call, to enter into executive session “to discuss complaints and disciplinary action” against a town employee. Kuklewicz said it would be “detrimental to the town’s position” to hold the proceedings in open session.

Though the meeting was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., it was delayed when Kuklewicz, Ellis and Zessin left the Selectboard’s upstairs meeting room to speak privately for about 20 minutes.

Continued proceedings

Back in November, Montague officials hired the private firm APD Management Inc. to investigate Dodge, who was scrutinized in 2016 by the state Attorney General’s Office over alleged mishandling of prescription drop-box drugs at the police station. An Oct. 12 Greenfield Recorder story detailed how the investigation, which included a state police sting operation, focused on Dodge, who became addicted to opioids after being prescribed painkillers for a foot injury he suffered as a young patrol officer.

No charges were filed from the investigation, which was closed last year, and while the Selectboard received a report from APD Management during a Jan. 5 hearing, it has not yet been released to the public. The Jan. 5 meeting, where Dodge was also present, quickly went into executive session and was continued to a later date.

“Complex matters require a substantial amount of time and effort, and being willing to expend that time and effort is our public responsibility,” Ellis said of the lengthy proceedings.

While many in town have stood behind Dodge since the publication of the Oct. 12 article, others have called for his resignation. Town officials placed Dodge on paid administrative leave at the end of October, a decision apparently influenced by two letters mailed in response to the article.

The first letter came from Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who initially voiced public support for Dodge’s recovery, but later said that with Dodge as chief, Montague Police Department would not be allowed back onto the regional anti-crime task force, from which it had been suspended during the 2016 tampering probe.

The second letter, from officers in Montague’s Police union, expressed displeasure about comments Dodge made to AG investigators and the Greenfield Recorder, which they say suggested one of them may have stolen drugs from the drop-off box.