Selectboard places Montague Police Chief Dodge on administrative leave

  • Montague Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MONTAGUE — Montague Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge has been placed on administrative leave while the town conducts an internal investigation, the Montague Board of Selectmen announced Tuesday.

“The purpose of the investigation is to acquire a complete and objective set of facts to inform any future action the board may take,” Town Administrator Steve Ellis said in a statement. “Note that the board makes no presumption with regard to the outcome of this investigation.”

Lt. Chris Bonnett will assume the position of acting chief of police until further notice.

The announcement of Dodge’s leave comes in the wake of two recent letters — one signed by the Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, stating the Montague Police Department would not be allowed back into the regional anti-crime task force, and the other by the officers of the Montague Police Union, expressing their displeasure with Dodge’s comments that suggested one of them may have stolen drugs from the town’s drug drop-off box.

These letters came on the heels of a Greenfield Recorder story detailing how Dodge was the focus of the Attorney General’s office investigation into the department’s handling of a prescription drug box program. No charges were filed and the investigation was closed. Dodge shared his story of struggling with addiction last month.

The town previously placed Dodge under administrative leave in June 2016 because of the state’s ongoing investigation. After taking him off of a four-day leave at the time, Selectman Michael Nelson said, “The Montague selectmen believe our chief does a fantastic job. This is a personal matter with the chief that we are very hopeful will be cleared up quickly.”

Monday night, the selectmen met during executive sessions to “discuss complaints and potential disciplinary action against a public officer, employee, staff member or individual.”

Before going into the closed-door session Monday night, the Selectboard said there would be no votes taken. After emerging from the meeting, selectmen would not comment on whether they had taken a vote involving the chief.

Dodge, too, did not comment as he got into his car, alongside his wife, following the nearly two-hour executive session meeting at Montague Town Hall late Monday night. Dodge did not return telephone calls on Tuesday.

One person who did have something to say Monday night was Town Administrator Steven Ellis.

“I look forward to engaging the anti-crime task force leadership at some point in time to talk about Montague’s ongoing interest in participation and cooperation with it,” Ellis said, adding that the town has had internal conversations about rejoining the task force, but has yet to have a “substantive” discussion with the District Attorney’s office about it.

Ellis also gave a brief comment regarding the letter from Sullivan during the public comment period at the Selectboard’s regular meeting.

Ellis said, “The town was not engaged in any conversation prior to taking this (task force) vote. ... there was no opportunity for discussion” for the town in the regional task force’s vote.

In a letter from Sullivan to Dodge that was released by the town on Oct. 26, the district attorney said the task force’s executive board voted on Oct. 19 to keep Montague out of the regional crime-fighting group that often works on major drug cases.

“Placing a member of the Montague Police Department in the position of answering to both the Montague Police Chief and the leadership of the Task Force, where drug investigations would need to remain confidential from the Police Chief, is untenable,” the letter said. “This risks eroding the command structure of the Montague Police Department or worse, compromising the safety of those people involved in the dangerous work of drug investigations. This would be an unacceptable risk of the member departments of the Task Force and/or of any assigned officer from the Montague Police Department.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.