Leyden Selectboard member counters officer’s claims

  • Residents attend Leyden’s Selectboard meeting on Monday night. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2022 4:46:02 PM

LEYDEN — Selectboard member Erica Jensen responded publicly on Monday night to statements made at the last meeting with respect to Police Department operations, including what she called “some unfounded gossip floating around.”

“There has been a lot of heated discussions and drama recently, and I don’t want to add to it, but I do need to address some of the inaccuracies that (Officer-in-Charge) Mike Aiken brought up in the last Selectboard meeting,” Jensen said in a prepared statement.

In her statement, she referenced concerns regarding access to the key for the police office, the status of the phone lines and the former police chief’s computer, as well as allegations that “possibly a Selectboard member” was opening Police Department mail.

Aiken, who was in attendance at Monday’s meeting, did not respond publicly except to answer Selectboard Chair Jeffrey Neipp’s questions to confirm that “corrective actions” had indeed been taken since the Jan. 3 meeting, including the phone lines once again being operational. He did not return a request for comment as of press time Tuesday.

In her statement, Jensen said she was taken aback by statements Aiken made at the Jan. 3 meeting, given that she — as the Selectboard liaison to the Police Department — had communicated with him several times over the last few months and his concerns were never raised with her personally.

With respect to the office key that Aiken claimed Jensen had requested, she relayed that she had not, in fact, asked for the key.

“One copy of the key was cut and then held in a locked filing cabinet in the Town Office,” she read. “This key is for use by the fire chief and the state fire marshal to rightly and lawfully inspect the police office for fire safety. Every other municipal office has a spare key for just this purpose.”

The lock has since been re-keyed, she noted.

Her second point pertained to concerns relating to the former police chief’s computer.

“The former police chief’s computer has been unusable for months because he has not given the password to any of the officers,” Jensen said, referring to retired police chief Dan Galvis.

In reference to Aiken’s statement that she had asked for the passwords to the Police Department computers, she clarified that she asked him to get the password for the former chief’s computer so it could be accessible to officers.

“That there is some unfounded gossip floating around accusing me of wanting to access anyone’s personal information is beyond ridiculous,” Jensen said. “One of the jobs of the duly appointed police liaison — that is me — is to ensure all police property is usable and functional.”

Neipp previously said he has been assured the passwords have been reset.

On the topic of phone lines, she reiterated that the department had 11 phone lines being paid for, six of which had no voicemail.

“They were useless,” she read. “I, as the duly appointed police liaison, have the right and responsibility to ensure there is no financial waste.”

Jensen said her decision to have the phone lines cut “was all done in good faith,” noting it was within her bounds to make such a decision as a department liaison. The fact that Verizon cut other lines was a mistake that was rectified.

“OIC Aiken said he didn’t have access to a fax for two weeks,” Jensen stated. “This was inaccurate. At any point, he could have used the secure Town Office fax, so that never was an issue.”

And finally, she said, the allegation that the Police Department’s mail had been opened “possibly by a Selectboard member” is not a federal crime, as Aiken alleged earlier this month. Jensen said she personally had opened the Verizon bill and the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) annual town fee bill, both of which had arrived in the mail more than two weeks earlier.

She explained that every government record in Massachusetts is presumed to be public unless it falls under a specific exemption.

“It is the Selectboard’s responsibility to pay bills, nor does the Selectboard need ask for permission to open bills,” Jensen added. “This is town mail.”

Before receiving a round of applause, Jensen said that moving forward, she hopes the Selectboard can work together “to get some positive work done and not waste town time on drama.”

“I hope that you all will join me,” she said, “in helping our town move forward in a positive way to help solve problems, to have transparency and to create town government that works for everyone, not just a few.”

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


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