Montague PD may rejoin DA’s task force

  • 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 file photo

  • A Montague Police emblem on the Safety Complex door. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Thursday, March 08, 2018

MONTAGUE — The Montague Police Department may soon be able to rejoin the regional Anti-Crime Task Force now that Charles “Chip” Dodge is no longer chief.

“We anticipate the task force executive committee reviewing the Town of Montague Police Department’s request to be reinstated as a member in June,” District Attorney David E. Sullivan said Wednesday.

The department was suspended from the task force in July 2016 after Dodge was investigated for mishandling of the prescription medicine dropbox in his station. The task force often deals with drug-related crimes.

Sullivan also stated confidence in the current dropbox protocols.

“The Montague drug dropbox protocols currently in place safeguard medications and protect confidentiality,” he said. “The public should be confident in the police department’s handling of medications.”

Separation agreement terms

Sullivan’s statement follows Montague and Dodge reaching an agreement on Dodge’s resignation as chief, a job he had held since 2012. The written separation agreement between the Town of Montague Selectboard and Dodge was released Wednesday morning and outlines the conditions of his resignation and paid administrative leave.

Dodge will continue to receive his full salary and be eligible for town group health insurance until Feb. 12, 2019, when his resignation takes effect. He will not be allowed to be employed with the town “in any other capacity” before Feb. 12.

Dodge signed the agreement on Feb. 26, and Selectboard members signed it Monday, because Dodge had seven days to change his mind.

When Dodge retires, he will be eligible for “all the benefits and considerations the town affords its retired police officers,” including post-retirement health insurance and “any additional payouts for unused leave” after Feb. 12.

The agreement states that he will “remain on a paid administrative leave status at his current rate of pay and usual deductions ... including retirement and health insurance contributions.”

Town records show his annual salary as $90,402, with a 20 percent educational incentive, based on the Quinn Bill, bringing his total yearly pay to $108,482.

The agreement prevents Dodge from receiving “any additional compensation, benefits, or stipends from the Town, except that the Town shall continue to make contributions in the amount of eighty percent of his monthly health insurance premiums during the period of his paid administrative leave” as long as he still wishes to be enrolled in the town’s health insurance program.

If Dodge applies for unemployment compensation benefits after Feb. 12, the town “agrees not to oppose his application.”

New chief

However, the agreement also states that the town is free to hire a full-time replacement for the position of chief of police while Dodge remains on administrative leave.

Kuklewicz estimated that a “preliminary discussion” on the steps to take for hiring a new chief may be discussed at the Selectboard meeting March 19.

The agreement also states that the agreement is not “and shall be not construed as an admission or assignment of fault, liability, wrongdoing, unlawful conduct, or violation …” on Dodge’s part. Montague agrees to provide a “neutral reference” for Dodge’s potential employers by providing them with his dates of employment and positions held.

Dodge must return all property belonging to the town, including police insignia, badges, patches, flashlights, Department ID cards, portable radios, handcuffs, pepper spray, baton, Department-issued firearms, computers, vehicles and vehicle accessories.

He will be allowed to retrieve his personal belongings from the police station at a “mutually convenient time.”

Dodge has agreed to “cooperate reasonably” with the town regarding any police department matters having to do with his employment. He will be compensated $55 per hour for “such cooperating task” after Feb. 12, but will not receive additional compensation prior to the end of his administrative leave.

When asked if he had any comment on the decision to keep Dodge on paid leave rather than terminating his pay immediately, Selectboard member Rich Kuklewicz said it was a “mutually agreed decision” between the Selectboard and Dodge.

“It was a voluntary resignation,” Kuklewicz added.