Veteran Greenfield officer lands job in Erving in wake of budget cuts

  • Former Greenfield Police Officer Laura Gordon, pictured with one of her comfort dogs, has been appointed to join the Erving force as a full-time patrol officer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Former Greenfield Police Officer Laura Gordon, pictured with her comfort dogs and Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, has been appointed to join the Erving force as a full-time patrol officer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Former Greenfield Police Officer Laura Gordon, pictured in January, has been appointed to join the Erving force as a full-time patrol officer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2022 9:15:21 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 9:12:59 PM

ERVING — In the wake of controversial police budget cuts in Greenfield, 24-year Greenfield Police Officer Laura Gordon has been appointed to join the Erving force as a full-time patrol officer.

Gordon, who completed her last day with Greenfield Police last week, revealed in a series of Facebook comments that she began the hiring process with Erving after consulting Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner. Erving Police Chief Robert Holst said at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, where Gordon was officially appointed, that she has “been amazing” in terms of her initiative throughout the hiring process.

Acknowledging her 31 total years of experience as a police officer, Holst and the Selectboard agreed to appoint Gordon to a one-year contract with a July 1 starting date and a higher-than-typical starting salary of $29.03 per hour.

Greenfield city councilors made cuts to the Police Department’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget during a May 19 meeting. These cuts included $400,000 for salaries, bringing the salary line down to $3.1 million, and $25,000 in expenses, bringing the expense line to $275,000. The budgetary decisions came just two weeks after a jury verdict found the Greenfield Police Department and Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. discriminated against former Officer Patrick Buchanan, the department’s only Black officer at the time he was denied a promotion in 2014.

Gordon’s husband, acting Greenfield Police Chief William Gordon, previously explained that because of union obligations, any money cut from the salaries and wages line item in the budget would result in the layoffs of the most recently hired officers. Those officers are likely to include Brendan Smith, Adam Belville, Marcus Johansson, Jedadiah Henry, Matthew Llewelyn and Nicholas Limoges. William Gordon said previously that his wife submitted her notice for a leave of absence, to last a period of one year, from the Greenfield Police Department to save Officer Ella Sinigur’s job.

“After much soul searching, I have decided to step away from my duties as a Greenfield police officer so that a junior officer, who would otherwise be furloughed because of recent budget cuts, can remain on the force,” Laura Gordon stated in a city press release on June 10. “The most difficult part of this decision is the feeling that I am letting down the people of Greenfield and the proactive approach to community policing to which I have dedicated my career, but I firmly believe this is the best course of action for the future of the Greenfield Police Department.”

“I respect Officer Gordon’s decision, but I also deeply regret it as I’ve told her,” Wedegartner said in the statement. “Officer Gordon’s absence from the Greenfield Police Department will not only be felt by her colleagues, but by our whole community.”

Laura Gordon has not responded to repeated requests for comment regarding her prospective new position in Erving. William Gordon said his wife does not want to speak to the news media at this time, citing recent social media criticism and a desire not to compromise her relationship with Erving’s Police Department.

While in Greenfield, Laura Gordon has served as community resource officer since early 2021, as the city looked to shift its focus more to community policing. Gordon said in February 2021 that she loves having face-to-face interactions with the public, whether she’s with one of her comfort dogs, talking with homeless people, feeding those who are hungry or listening to a business owner.

“I hike trails where I know I’ll run into certain populations,” she said at the time. “I want to check on them and make sure they’re safe. I try to get them services, if they need them.”

Given her 31 total years of experience, Erving officials discussed what might be an appropriate salary before settling on $29.03 per hour — a Grade 2, Step 14 rate, should Laura Gordon accept.

Holst initially advocated for Gordon to start even higher, but Selectboard member William Bembury expressed concern over the prospect of a newly hired patrol officer earning a wage comparable to — or greater than — the salary of an existing sergeant within the department.

“The reason for my questions is I want to be fair to the officer and I also want to be fair to the sergeant,” Bembury said. “I would like to compensate her for 31 years of service, but for a one-year term of employment, I can’t see doing that currently.”

“While we would like to do more if we could, we want to be cognizant of the budget and the taxpayers, and try to find balance there,” Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith added. “Unfortunately, it may not be at the level she had as compensation in Greenfield, but it’s about the best we can do.”

Holst responded amicably, projecting that this compromise should suffice.

“I think that’s generous, gentlemen,” he said to the Selectboard. “Just the conversation that I have had with her, I think she’ll be happy with that. I can’t see her not.”

Smith expressed excitement regarding the prospect of having a veteran officer join the ranks of Erving.

“It’s a rare opportunity, regardless of how long — assuming she accepts — she stays with us, to have someone with that kind of experience to be with us,” Smith said.

In a Facebook comment, Laura Gordon said the transition between departments will involve a multi-faceted adjustment for her.

“Either way, this will be a financial change for my family,” she wrote, “and emotional for me because I’m leaving a community I’ve built relationships in for 24 years.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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