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After contentious dispute with selectmen, Goulden departs as town’s top cop


SHIRLEY — A brief joint statement from Thomas Goulden and the Board of Selectmen officially ended the police chief’s employment with the town Monday.

“They have mutually resolved their employment differences. As such, both parties feel that this resolution remains in the best interest of the town of Shirley,” Chairwoman Holly Haase read.

Goulden did not attend the meeting.

“I have nothing further to say,” Goulden said when reached by telephone after the meeting.

Haase did not take any comments or questions after reading the statement at Monday’s meeting.

The rift between Goulden, hired in 2014, and some residents in town escalated at the end of 2016.

The selectmen placed Goulden on paid administrative leave at the end of February. The board had questions about a report done by investigator Jean Heartl which found there was sufficient evidence to support former police Sgt. Alfreda Cromwell’s allegations of mistreatment by Goulden.

Cromwell was demoted and then fired by the selectmen in November on Goulden’s recommendation. He accused her of being in violation of orders when she renewed a confidential registration for her private vehicle when she was demoted. She was terminated after he accused her of giving fraudulent testimony during the first hearing in February.

In January, the two selectmen who voted to demote and the next week to terminate Cromwell were recalled and replaced in January. Cappucci, who voted in Cromwell’s favor, remained in office.

A scheduled executive session with Goulden on June 6 was held in open session at his request. No vote was taken because Goulden’s attorney had not seen some of the paperwork in advance of the meeting.

A second executive session scheduled for the selectmen’s conference room the following Monday left over 75 people waiting for the board and Goulden to appear in

open session in the downstairs meeting room.

Instead, two hours after the scheduled start of the meeting, Cappucci and town counsel came in and announced there would be no open meeting. They did not give a reason.

The June 19 agenda included an executive session to conduct contract negotiations with the chief.

After reading their brief statement, the board asked Acting Chief Samuel Santiago to say what his goals are.

“My goal is stability in the department,” Santiago said. He was named acting chief after Goulden was placed on paid administrative leave in February. Training and new equipment are priorities.

“I really think you’ve done a great job Sammy,” Haase said.

Instead of paying Santiago a stipend for his work as acting chief, the board voted unanimously to pay him at the pay grade of a new chief.

Cappucci proposed giving Santiago a three-year contract, but both Haase and Wilson praised Santiago, but said they wanted to give the public an opportunity to provide input on hiring a chief.

“I’m asking for two weeks,” Haase said.

Santiago was comfortable with waiting. “Regardless of what position I’m in, I’m still going to serve the citizens of Shirley,” he said.

Residents praised Santiago. Some were fine with waiting two weeks and others criticized the decision. More than a dozen were in attendance.

“I don’t feel safe in this town,” said resident Maureen Parlon, who asked for Santiago to be appointed during the meeting. “We sit here week after week, after week and wait,” she said.

“I think it’s wise for the board to just take a breath,” said resident Susan Baxter. She said now people know what the situation is regarding Goulden, people can think about things.

The audience applauded Santiago at the end of the conversation.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.