Greenfield City Council nixes police audit funding

  • The Greenfield Police Station on High Street. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • In May, Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner announces an independent audit of the Greenfield Police Department. City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night against appropriating $100,000 to fund the audit. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2022 10:33:34 PM

GREENFIELD — The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night against appropriating $100,000 to fund an independent audit of the Police Department’s structure, policies and practices, heeding the guidance of dozens of residents who have spoken publicly on the subject.

“Although I thought an audit was appropriate, and if it were my choice I would try to get clarity from a third-party majority, it’s apparent that the public and most of us are just over this at the moment,” said City Council Vice President Daniel Guin. “I’m going to vote ‘no’ and look at it again when it comes back. I’d rather put $100,000 toward something else we’ve got to worry about immediately.”

Councilors were torn at their Sept. 21 meeting regarding how to move forward in light of the public outcry over Mayor Roxann Wedegartner’s decision to reinstate Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. as of Sept. 1. Haigh had been on paid administrative leave since May, when a Hampshire County Superior Court jury found he and the Police Department had acted with “racial animus” toward former Officer Patrick Buchanan when he was denied a promotion in 2014. Buchanan was the department’s only Black officer at the time.

At last month’s meeting, the motion to fund the independent audit that was proposed by Wedegartner in May was tabled after the initial request of $175,000 was amended to $100,000. Councilors voted by majority on Wednesday evening to remove the request from the table.

Although At-Large Councilor Penny Ricketts was among the few at the meeting to voice support for an audit of the Police Department, she wasn’t convinced the proposed price tag was “reasonable.”

“I’ve been involved long enough to know that things change,” she said. “Councilors change, selectmen change, mayors change, and with the budget cut (of $425,000), our Police Department is also changing. The only reason I won’t vote for this is the price tag, but I’m for an audit. It doesn’t mean somebody down the road a year or two years from now won’t find that beneficial, and it may be all different people at the table.”

The councilors’ vote followed more than a dozen comments from members of the public asking for a “no” vote on the police audit funding.

“There’s no guarantee the mayor will actually act on the findings, and based on her track record, I have no confidence she would,” said resident Mireille Bejjani. “Instead of delaying much-needed reforms to the department and throwing away taxpayer money, I hope you’ll vote ‘no’ on the audit and move forward with the changes we know we need to address racism in our Police Department.”

Resident Ilene Stahl echoed Bejjani.

“I, too, have lost confidence in the ability of this mayor to oversee an audit that is fair and impartial, as she has let her bias be known from the moment the Buchanan verdict was made public,” Stahl commented. “I have no confidence any amount of money that would be spent on an audit that the mayor would oversee or be in charge of would lead us to the change we need to see in our town.”

Precinct 7 Councilor Jasper Lapienski acknowledged his appreciation for residents who spoke in opposition to the audit. He noted he agreed “more or less” with their analysis that it wouldn’t achieve “real results.”

“But I do agree with Councilor Ricketts that it would be nice if we could have some kind of a process that would get them,” Lapienski said. “I just don’t think this particular way is the way to go.”

Precinct 8 Councilor Doug Mayo said between the public outcry and the price tag proposed, he also couldn’t support the motion.

Although she ultimately voted “no,” Ricketts cautioned councilors against considering only the voices of those who attended the meeting.

“I do appreciate the members of the public who came out tonight to voice their opinion,” she said. “I’m a councilor at-large. ... I still have to think about the 18,000 in the city, not the 30 who spoke tonight. … I’m for all the people we are not hearing from.”

Councilors also voted by majority against taking from the table a resolution to declare no confidence in Haigh and Wedegartner.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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