Leyden Selectboard to meet with police chief concerning racist emails; residents voice many concerns

  • Residents raised concerns about Police Chief Dan Galvis and the Police Department during Thursday’s Leyden Selectboard meeting. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  •  GALVIS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/17/2021 3:40:11 PM

LEYDEN – The Selectboard will meet with the police chief Monday, Oct. 18 in an anticipated executive session to discuss possible disciplinary action regarding emails containing racist content that were shared by the chief with town officers and employees between 2015 and 2016.

Police Chief Dan Galvis, who has served in his position for about 30 years, was not in attendance Thursday evening when residents requested oversight action, including suspension and termination, by the Selectboard, the body that oversees the Police Department.

The emails were brought to light following a Sept. 7 meeting when Selectboard members discussed the chief’s decision not to recommend Police Sgt. Tina Riddell for reappointment. Riddell, who was not reappointed, in turn questioned the chief’s own conduct and shared several emails Galvis had forwarded from what was considered his official work email.

The emails were shared by the chief with officers on his department and town employees. Included in recipients was Gilda Galvis, the chief’s wife who serves as Leyden Police captain, and current Selectboard Chair Jeff Neipp’s personal email.

While it is anticipated Monday’s discussion will occur in executive session, it is up to Galvis as the personnel member being discussed to choose whether the conversation be open to the public.

Speaking at last week’s meeting, resident Sara Seinberg reiterated concerns raised in a petition, which was signed by 88 residents ahead of a September Selectboard meeting that called for the resignation or termination of Galvis as police chief. Seinberg said the chief’s decision to share the emails, which contained joke-chains with racist content, should “disqualify” him from holding a position of power.

Residents raised concerns Thursday that Galvis is not currently suspended or on leave while an investigation or disciplinary meeting is waiting to be held, and Seinberg read written statements submitted by multiple residents who could not attend.

“The company I work for is a snapshot of America and I use it as an example because it is what I know,” wrote Finance Committee member Nate Messer. “I know for a fact that if I sent emails of this kind on my company’s email I would be fired immediately. My company, like most others in America, has a zero tolerance policy. The only difference in this case is that Chief Galvis holds power that most of us do not.”

Another letter calling for the chief’s resignation, written by Sharon Fontaine, referenced Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden who recently resigned after it was discovered he had sent emails containing homophobic and misogynistic remarks. Fontaine wrote that “any Selectboard members who do not support this resignation by Galvis are just as guilty.”

Ginger Robinson, Finance Committee chair and Seinberg’s wife, also expressed concern that Galvis is not suspended or on leave.

“I’m disgusted that Dan is walking around this town carrying a gun right now,” Robinson said. “I think he should be put on immediate suspension, and it should have happened weeks ago.”

Lack of oversight action

Seinberg questioned why neither Neipp, nor Capt. Galvis had raised concern over the emails when they were sent.

First-term Selectboard member Erica Jensen said that even if Capt. Gilda wanted to, being married to the chief complicates her ability to report his behavior.

Residents in attendance said this is a reason for concern over “nepotism” in the Police Department, with Capt. Galvis having the second-highest executive position.

“I absolutely understand the point that you’ve got a long-time, entrenched chief who has promoted his wife to captain — that is the entirety of the executive branch of our Police Department,” Jensen said. “That is the very definition of nepotism.”

Both Jensen and residents said officers may have been hesitant to report the emails if a Selectboard member, a person who a complaint would be reported to, and Capt. Galvis, a superior officer, were already recipients.

Selectboard Chair Neipp said he initially did not read the emails after they were given to the board in September. On Thursday, he said he has since reviewed them and felt the contents were “horrible.”

Jensen argued the emails showed a repeated pattern of behavior over an extended time, which was a cause for concern, and that action should have been taken when the emails were sent.

“These emails were sent to the Selectboard. That is where the buck should have stopped, and it didn’t,” she said.

Selectboard Bill Glabach again contested the motivation behind Riddell sharing the emails years after they had been sent. They were submitted during a meeting last month in which the Selectboard ultimately voted not to reappoint Riddell based on incident reports presented by Galvis.

Glabach, who said at a meeting last month that he did not read the emails when they were sent, said he “remembers saying in the past” that Galvis’ “bedside manner is where his biggest problem is.”

“I really don’t think he is racist…” Glabach started, before the public interjected.

Need for training

Resident Aaron Dulles, who encouraged Selectboard members to take anti-bias training, addressed comments about a “lack” of previous complaints against Galvis. An absence of complaints is not evidence of a lack of bias, he argued, saying that “bias and discrimination does not lend itself to speaking out.”

While it was previously believed that Chief Galvis had appointed himself as civil rights officer, a position Gov. Charlie Baker asked each police department in the state to institute in 2018, Jensen said after looking into this, she determined such a position would no longer exist under new Massachusetts police reform laws. Jensen also noted that under this new reform, all officers will be required to attend anti-bias training.

Seinberg said she felt “the force was compromised” and that officers needed to take immediate training.

Capt. Galvis, who was in attendance Thursday, said town officers had taken Acadis training, which included anti-bias training, through the Municipal Police Training Committee as recently as July. When asked by Jensen if she or other officers would agree to take similar training again, the police captain said she would be willing to do so.

While a determination for disciplinary action may come out of Monday’s meeting, residents said they were displeased that Galvis had yet to issue an apology to the community. Robinson directly asked if Galvis had apologized in conversation to any members of the Selectboard.

Jensen said she had “a long conversation with Dan and an apology did not come up.”

Attorney general inquiries

Speaking during Thursday’s meeting, Neipp said he had received a call from the state Attorney General’s Office earlier that day requesting meeting minutes and other information pertaining to previous discussions around the emails in question.

Seinberg said she also spoke with the Attorney General’s Office, and was informed it had received several complaints from residents of Leyden regarding Galvis’ conduct as police chief. Chloe Gotsis, senior deputy press secretary with the Attorney General’s Office, told the Greenfield Recorder their office could confirm they have received complaints and these complaints are under review, but said it would not be fair to characterize this as an investigation at this time.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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