AYER — According to Police Chief Richard Rizzo, Selectman Frank Maxant has repeatedly violated professional and ethical standards with regard to the local police department in recent months.
Maxant maintains he violated nothing, but was instead performing his responsibilities as an elected official on a board responsible for the department.
The issue has been in the public eye since November, when Maxant was confronted at a selectmen’s meeting over an inquiry about the department’s performance Maxant made to presiding Ayer District Court Judge Peter Kilmartin in October.
That letter figured into two of four complaints outlined in a memo from Rizzo to Selectmen Chairman Faye Morrison dated Oct. 13.
Though the document was forwarded to Morrison at that time, according to Maxant, he did not receive it until after the board’s Dec. 13 meeting. At the meeting where discussion of the complaints was planned, it was Rizzo who provided copies after it was learned that neither Morrison nor interim town administrator Edward McCann had brought them to the meeting.
Morrison has not returned calls requesting comment on the matter.
While Maxant chose not to “try the matter in the papers,” he did offer his thoughts on a few of the allegations against him.
Overall, he said many of the chief’s accusations apply to standards of conduct of those who work for the town, not those who oversee them.
”There is a different set of professional standards for uniformed services than for the civilians who oversee them,” said Maxant.
The Oct. 13 memo from Rizzo was titled “Unprofessional Behavior of Selectman Frank Maxant” and outlined four distinct complaints against the selectman.
The first incident related to a July 12 selectmen’s meeting where Maxant raised reservations about the behavior of an unspecified patrolman who was seeking re-appointment.
Rizzo maintains Maxant was out of line to bring up personnel issues that pertained to the officer’s reputation in open session. He said in a subsequent memo that Maxant violated Massachusetts General Law by not notifying the officer beforehand and offering him a chance to address the complaint in executive session.
Maxant responded the query was in response to a series of complaints he had heard over a period of time.
”I decided I needed to learn more about the complaint,” said Maxant, who said he brought the matter to the officer’s attention at the hearing, though he would not mention any names.
Under the second complaint, Rizzo said Maxant copied a letter from the patrolman’s union seeking an apology for the July 12 incident, posted it at Town Hall and brought it to a class in the high school, albeit with the names blacked out.
Rizzo maintains that behavior does not conform to the standards of professionalism outlined in the selectmen’s general polices. He said it embarrassed the town.
Maxant countered he acted thus to keep residents aware of what was going on in local government.
The third complaint included reference to Maxant’s letter to Kilmartin, saying Maxant delivered it at the police station on Oct. 7. It was handed to the dispatcher on duty without an envelope, which Rizzo said was inappropriate for what he termed a confidential document.
Under that heading, Rizzo wrote he was in his office at that time and Maxant chose not to deal with him directly. He said Maxant again displayed a lack of professionalism and did not conform to town personnel codes, which called for him to seek two-way communication with the chief on any issues.
Maxant responded the letter was from one public official to another, and as such was a public record.
Rizzo also took issue with items within the Kilmartin letter in the fourth complaint, saying Maxant was wrong to claim that he, as a selectman, had statutory responsibilities as a police commissioner and that he would be wrong to act as an individual under that pretext.
Rizzo wrote that selectmen policies and procedures call for concerns about departments to be directed through the town administrator. Maxant also violated the department’s internal policy for handling complaints, Rizzo wrote, which is intended to protect both police officers and the public.
He further contended Maxant has violated Massachusetts General Law by using official titles to obtain information from Kilmartin and faulted him for not bringing his concerns to proper channels. He wrote that Maxant never initiated conversation with him on that topic, asking at one point of his memo if Maxant doesn’t trust him to conduct his own internal investigation.
He also wrote: “I think the tone of the letter indicate (sic) that Mr. Maxant has already formed an opinion about the Ayer Police Department and is looking for more dirt to fortify his opinion.”
Maxant responded, “Does he think someone looking for dirt would go ask the presiding judge at district court? Just like my letter said, I’m trying to learn about the department’s performance.”
Even so, Maxant expressed optimism he and Rizzo could work together.
”The chief and I are on the same page in that we want our police department to be serving the town to the same high standard as the other town employees.”