Leyden police chief retains position despite public outcry over racist emails

  • GALVIS

  • Residents gather at Leyden Town Hall on Monday for a Selectboard meeting where it was announced Police Chief Dan Galvis will be allowed to continue his tenure until he retires in June, despite a review of racist content in emails he shared with other town employees and officers between 2015 and 2016. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2021 5:11:38 PM

LEYDEN — Police Chief Dan Galvis will be allowed to continue his tenure until he retires in June, despite a review of racist content in emails he shared with other town employees and officers between 2015 and 2016.

The Selectboard met in executive session for more than two hours on Oct. 18 to discuss the surfaced emails, which were first brought to light following a Sept. 7 meeting when board 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 the batch of emails Galvis had forwarded from what was considered his official work email.

Galvis was not in attendance at the Selectboard’s Monday meeting, during which the results of the executive session were discussed, as he is on vacation until Nov. 4, according to the board.

The chief has not attended recent Selectboard meetings and has yet to issue an apology in public. Instead, Selectboard Chair Jeffrey Neipp read a letter written by Galvis in which the chief referred to the emails he had received and forwarded “to friends and acquaintances” as “poor attempts at humor.”

“I did not give them a great deal of thought at the time,” Galvis wrote. “Upon reflection, I realize I should have been more aware of the impact that these jokes have on the targets of this type of humor. I understand now that my actions were inappropriate. I want you all to know that I have listened and learned from this experience. I apologize to you for my actions and for any pain that the content of these emails may have caused. I want you to understand that I value my role as chief of police and will continue to strive to serve and protect everyone to the best of my ability.”

First-term Selectboard member Erica Jensen said Monday that the Oct. 18 executive session determined a disciplinary action letter will go into Galvis’ personnel file “stating he forwarded emails that had content that was explicitly racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and anti-Muslim” and that further action like this would be grounds for terminable cause.

She also said she requested the chief write the formal apology letter to the town stating what he had done wrong and how he feels about his actions. Those in attendance voiced strong displeasure with Galvis submitting a “forced” apology. They said part of “restorative justice” would be for the chief to hear from the people who are harmed by his actions.

“It seems to me that if disciplinary action is contemplated, then some meaningful amount of disciplinary action is accomplished by Chief Galvis facing the music, in a very literal way, by hearing firsthand what people think about what he’s done,” said resident Aaron Dulles. “He has not been here for any of that.”

Loss of faith

Other residents voiced a loss of faith in their Police Department, and said the lack of disciplinary action felt “corrupt.” Some blamed a “good old boy” network for Neipp and Selectboard member Bill Glabach’s hesitancy to take further disciplinary action. Neipp, who repeatedly referred to the chief as “Danny,” said he and Glabach had received an apology from the chief. However, Jensen said otherwise.

“If Dan apologized to Jeff and Bill — OK. He told me point blank that he did nothing wrong and that he would never apologize,” Jensen said. “This apology was based on me saying I would vote 100% for termination if that was not included.”

Jensen continued, saying she was upset that termination, suspension or forced resignation “were never on the table, because Jeff and Bill were never going to vote that way.” She said she agreed to the Selectboard’s conditions simply because she was outvoted, but felt most of the actions “are meaningless.”

“I hear the letter, but it doesn’t echo with me on any level,” said resident Stef Laing. “It’s empty as his seat here is also empty. I find those both shallow and inadequate for what has gone on. What is the sense of a disciplinary letter on a man that’s retiring? What’s the consequence?”

During their executive session, members agreed to send a letter to state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, rescinding a June Annual Town Meeting vote to extend Galvis’ contract for another two years so he could serve until the age of 72.

Mark told the Greenfield Recorder he had received this correspondence and would not move the extension forward. Galvis is now expected to retire at the end of his current contract on June 11, 2022, or sooner, with no chance of reappointment in the future.

The audience voiced concern over the lack of steps taken for a transition plan with Galvis’ pending retirement. Residents voted at Town Meeting five years ago for an initial extension allowing Galvis to serve until age 70. Those is attendance Monday said planning for a transition should have begun at that time, and several residents signed a form to declare their interest in participating in a transition planning committee.

As part of the Selectboard’s executive session verdict, Jensen said Galvis will not be permitted to be a member of any committee formed to plan for the future administration and management of the Leyden Police Department.

Calls for resignation

Last month, residents formed a petition demanding the Selectboard — the body that oversees the Police Department — terminate or suspend Galvis. Those in attendance Monday voiced stern disapproval with the lack of discipline, saying they felt “unrepresented” by the Selectboard.

Board of Health Chair Beth Kuzdeba questioned both Neipp and Glabach’s conduct on the board and requested the two members resign — a call that went unanswered.

“I’m not prepared to make that decision tonight,” Glabach responded.

Dulles encouraged one of the two members to step down “for the betterment” of the residents. Finance Committee Chair Ginger Robinson, and other residents, have voiced interest in running for Selectboard in the next election when Glabach or Neipp’s seats expire, although this would not be until 2023 or 2024. Jensen will be up for re-election in 2022.

“We look to you people, who do a brutal job, for leadership. In this case, your leadership has really been off target,” said resident Jack Golden. “Maybe one good thing to come out of this is interest in running for boards.”

Resident Ann Zaveruha said Galvis’ refusal to resign put Neipp and Glabach in the position to communicate his apology for him, and showed a “lack of respect for the Selectboard and town.” She said the Selectboard would never have found themselves in their current position if Galvis had proper oversight.

Neipp and Glabach repeatedly referenced Galvis’ history of service to the town as a counterweight to concerns over the racist content of the emails. Residents criticized the Selectboard for this, saying they did not similarly take into account the comments from residents supporting Riddell in September.

“It’s hard to sit and watch the contrast between how Tina was treated and how Dan is being treated,” Robinson said.

Probe of improper storage of guns

The events of the emails are not the first incident to have raised public concern over Galvis’ conduct and competency. In July 2012, Galvis was at the center of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office after State Police confiscated several guns, including two loaded handguns sitting in plain view, an unloaded .22-caliber rifle, a Savage bolt-action rifle, a Stevens shotgun and a World War II-era H&R Reising .45-caliber submachine gun, that were not properly secured from his home.

When police began to inquire why Galvis would leave his house unlocked, with unsecured weapons inside, he became uncooperative, according to reports from 2012. Galvis was neither arrested nor brought in for questioning, and police left the chief at his home at the time.

Investigators determined that the guns either had no locks whatsoever, or did not meet state law requirements for proper storage. At the time, First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said that, when his office prosecutes unsecured firearm cases, a first offense usually doesn’t result in jail time. Gagne said Galvis could have faced a fine from $500 to $5,000, up to one year in jail or both. The Reising submachine gun could have carried a stiffer sentence, as the penalty for having an unsecured high-capacity firearm is a fine of $1,000 to $10,000, a jail term of one to 10 years or both.

The Attorney General’s Office has not returned multiple requests for comment this week on whether charges were ever brought forth from this incident.

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


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