TOWNSEND -- Police Chief Robert Eaton was placed on paid administrative leave by the town Friday evening shortly after he issued a public statement blasting the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator's ongoing investigation into four police department employees conducting unlawful background checks that he called a "strategic assassination" and a "calculated maneuver to disparage and dismantle the entire department."
"As the Chief of Police, I cannot stand idle and allow that to happen as it would be considered neglectful towards ethical principles and my integrity," he said.
In his statement, Eaton said he conducted his "own internal investigation into allegations of misconduct/and or criminal activity by his officers."
A press release from the Town Of Townsend, explaining why Eaton was placed on administrative leave, said on Jan. 31, Town Counsel, who is conducting the investigation, told Eaton to "discontinue your separate investigation." On Feb. 9, Town Counsel emphasized that Eaton "should not take any action in connection with this matter."
"On Feb. 10, the chief in disregard of the instructions to him released the results of incomplete, erroneous and unauthorized investigation in contradiction of the direct orders he had received and as a result has been placed on administrative leave," according to the town's press release.
In his statement, Eaton said he "fully complied" with all requests from Town Counsel.
"As a chief law enforcement officer, it is my lawful obligation to release credible and factual information that clears anyone from being wrongly accused," Eaton said in his statement.
In November, the Board of Selectmen ordered an investigation when they learned that records containing criminal history of two individuals who were not under police investigation were delivered to Eaton, according to the town's press release.
"The records on their face showed that the CJIS system had not been used for proper police purpose, a determination that has since been confirmed by the state administrators of the CJIS system," according to the release.
A recent ruling by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, "unequivocally exonerates all three police officers who were wrongfully accused of wrongdoing," Eaton said in his statement.
"Based on the facts presented in the DCJIS reviews, my internal investigation, reports from other police officers and other pertinent evidence, I am requesting immediate action from the Board of Selectmen via public statement which shall reinforce the trust an integrity of this department and me as the Chief of Police for the Town of Townsend," the statement said.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Carolyn Smart did not return a phone call for comment Friday night.
In his statement, Eaton said Sgt. Randy Girard, a 28-year police officer, who "was forced to resign under duress as he was subjected to threats of criminal charges, administrative discipline up to and including termination" from the investigation, should be "reinstated and made whole by giving him his rank, time in grade and compensated for all time lost."
One of the police department employees who was investigated was cleared to return to work, Eaton said earlier this week.
Eaton's leave is "pending completion of an investigation into the improper use of the CJIS system by members of the police department," according to the town's press release.
Eaton was scheduled to provide a recorded interview under oath with Town Counsel on Feb. 15, "regarding his knowledge and/or participation in department response to the misuse of the CJIS system," according to the town.