TOWNSEND -- An attorney representing Mark Giancotti, the Townsend Police Department lieutenant who is currently the officer in charge, argued Tuesday that allegations against him are baseless and may have been politically motivated.
Giancotti may face discipline on three charges, dealing mostly with alleged untruthfulness and unprofessional behavior, based on the results of a report compiled by private investigator Arthur Parker.
The town is not recommending any specific discipline, however. Instead, town counsel and Giancotti's attorney presented their cases to an independent hearings officer on Tuesday, who will make a recommendation to selectmen on how to proceed.
Michael Akerson, Giancotti's lawyer, said Tuesday that the allegations have a "complete lack of evidence." He touched upon various topics, such as Giancotti's lack of a contract despite having one until last summer, and insinuated that Giancotti may be facing political blowback for investigating a personnel matter in the department involving a selectman's spouse.
"The lieutenant is a scapegoat," he said.
The hearing was prompted by the so-called Parker Report. Parker, a former police chief for Williamstown, Carver and Hanson, was hired by the town last fall to investigate 14 allegations against Giancotti. Many of the allegations relate to the release of information in a records request that was then used to bolster a recall bid starting in late 2015.
Parker -- who took the assignment after three other private investigators refused it or resigned -- found most of the allegations either without sufficient evidence or baseless. Three of them were sustained:
-that Giancotti made untruthful statements about discipline an employee received
-sought more reimbursement for lodging than he had agreed with a previous chief
-discussed a confidential MCAD complaint the department received with other employees
Brian Maser, an attorney with KP Law who is serving as Townsend's town counsel, opened Tuesday's hearing by reiterating Parker's findings on those three complaints. Maser, citing Parker, said those alleged acts would constitute violations of the department's rules.
"There is a zero-tolerance policy in law enforcement when officers are found to be untruthful in their duty," Maser said.
Neither the Board of Selectmen nor the town administrator participated in Tuesday's hearing. Lawyers and the hearings officer oversaw the entire matter, which lasted close to four hours.
Akerson initially told the hearings officer he would have asked the case to be dismissed had it been a formal court appearance. He said the heavy redactions to the Parker Report -- which still left several names visible in various sections -- prevented him from understanding its content and that his requests for an unmarked copy had been ignored.
Hayes said he could read the report "in most instances."
Giancotti answered questions from both attorneys and Hayes for a large portion of the hearing. One of the complaints alleges that he was untruthful by telling attorney Deb Ecker that he did not administer counseling to an employee but then told town officials he did counsel the employee.
During his hearing, Giancotti said he did not recall Ecker asking any questions about the matter. The Parker Report states that she did.
One of the other issues dealt with allegations that Giancotti sought more reimbursement for lodging than he had previously agreed during a 10-week training program last year. Giancotti said Tuesday he had agreed with former Interim Chief Rock Barrieau to spend $60 per night on a hotel.
However, Giancotti said that hotel posed safety concerns, so he moved to a different hotel for $75 a night. The second location was safer, he said, but the hotel itself was worse than the first, so he asked Chief Robert Eaton -- who had just taken over the department -- if he could upgrade to a $116-per-night hotel.
Giancotti said Tuesday he had not told Eaton about his prior agreement with Barrieau limiting the costs. He also said he was unaware the Board of Selectmen had taken a stance that he should be reimbursed for $50 per night.
There was no decision issued by the end of the hearing. Both attorneys will submit written statements to Hayes by April 26, and the hearings officer will review them before making his final recommendation on whether any further action should be taken.
Giancotti exercised his right to open the hearing to the public. Dozens of residents attended, many wearing "Support Townsend Police" T-shirts, and the hearing was moved from selectmen's chambers to the Great Hall to accommodate the crowd.
Among the audience was Eaton, who has been on paid administrative leave from his role as chief since Feb. 10 after criticizing a town investigation into allegations that the department conducted unauthorized background checks on private civilians.
After the meeting, Giancotti told a reporter he wanted the meeting public because he wanted to "let the truth be known."
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.