By Katina Caraganis
SHIRLEY — Acting Police Chief Alfreda Cromwell has agreed to release the recordings of hearings conducted Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, and 13 exhibits from an executive-session hearing held as a result of a three-day suspension handed to her by the police chief.
Cromwell was placed on a three-day suspension earlier this year after Police Chief Greg Massak received an anonymous tip that Cromwell was seen at Sean Patrick’s Restaurant in Lunenburg wearing her uniform pants with her department-issued gun and badge in plain sight.
In a letter dated Nov. 2 from attorney Gary Brackett to the Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg, under the Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law, “the release of the minutes of disciplinary hearings, conducted pursuant to grievance procedures, must be evaluated as to whether an individual’s reputation or privacy, or the public interest in maintaining morale among public employees would be harmed by release of the minutes.”
The letter goes on to say it should be considered whether release of the minutes would cause an “unreasonable, substantial, or serious invasion of privacy.”
Despite the protections, the attorney general has ruled that if the individual who is the subject of the disciplinary process consents to the release of the minutes, and if no other legitimate basis exists for an exemption, the minutes should be released.
Brackett said in his letter that Cromwell has consented, in writing, to the release of the records of the two meetings in question.
The suspension was grieved to the union, which brought it to the chief, who denied the grievance.
The grievance was then brought before the Board of Selectmen, which overturned the chief’s decision and ordered Cromwell be paid for the days she served the suspension. Her record has been cleared.
The department has no policy on officers not being allowed to wear their department-issued uniforms in public while off duty.
Brackett has denied a request by the Sentinel & Enterprise for the internal-affairs report by Massak, saying that because the complaint was an anonymous call and not a formal written complaint from a citizen, it’s considered a personnel record.
The Sentinel & Enterprise has appealed that decision to the state’s Department of Public Records, alleging that without the anonymous tip, the investigation would never have taken place, and Cromwell would never have been suspended.
A ruling on that complaint has not been issued.