Buckland board: No police chief misconduct in not answering phone calls

Hicks says calls should have been left with dispatch center

Recorder Staff
Monday, June 19, 2017

BUCKLAND — Three or four unreturned phone calls from the town police chief prompted a resident to file a complaint against him, but Police Chief James Hicks says he didn’t get any of the phone calls because of a faulty voice mail system.

The Selectboard heard Hicks’ appeal at a public hearing and agreed the issue didn’t warrant a misconduct complaint in his personnel file. But the board thinks a better communications plan should be put into place.

Hicks said he didn’t know the messages, asking to retrieve property from the Police Department, were left on the police station answering system. Hicks said people with nonemergency calls are supposed to call Shelburne Control emergency dispatch, which texts the police chief with the messages.

Instead, the resident had been mistakenly told to call the police station and leave a message.

Hicks said he was unaware of the phone calls until the complaint was filed. “I was shocked. This was a miscommunication problem. Not misconduct,” he said. “I would have to be purposefully ignoring his calls for it to be misconduct.”

The issue with the resident was immediately resolved as soon as the Hicks returned the call.

“I don’t think this comes close to misconduct,” Selectman Kevin Fox agreed.

Although the board unanimously voted to reverse a complaint determination, Selectwoman Dena Willmore said the issue could have been better handled. “I would fault the chief for not reaching out to him. You wouldn’t have had an unhappy citizen. It’s important, with a Police Department, to make sure all communications systems are working,” she said.