TOWNSEND — At their first in-person meeting in months, the Board of Selectmen appointed George Reidy to the rank of sergeant from patrolman, despite some concerns in the community about the officer’s past.
Reidy has been with the police department since October 2002 and according to Chief of Police James Sartell, he brings a wealth of experience from his time as a patrolman. He previously worked in Ashby as a reserve officer where he was sponsored to go to the full-time academy.
“He brings a significant amount of institutional knowledge and experience,” Sartell said. “You’re dealing with someone that has a very diverse background that we feel as a leadership team can really advance some of our community policing initiatives. He’s a very personal man.”
At the meeting, no one spoke in opposition of the promotion of Reidy. All three members of the board voted in favor of the promotion without discussion.
However, The Valley Voice has been contacted by several residents who expressed concern over Reidy’s promotion. The residents concern stems from an incident in 2017 in which Reidy was suspended for six-months after providing confidential information regarding another police department’s investigation to then-citizen and now-Selectmen Joseph Shank.
At the time of the incident, Reidy did apologize as The Sun reported:
“I fell short of the standard that is expected for law enforcement officers and short of the standard I hold for myself,” Reidy wrote in a letter that was released as part of a records request. “I accept responsibility for my actions and I commit to redoubling my efforts at providing the high quality public safety services that my superiors require and that the town deserves.”
Sartell said the promotional process was designed to be as objective as possible. The written examination for the position took place on Dec. 5, 2020 and police officers had to express their interest in November. He highlighted that Joseph Shank was elected on Jan. 23, 2021.
“We have a job to do. We investigate all complaints made against personnel and then we take steps to remediate those issues,” Sartell said. “Any sort of discipline that would have been given out would have components to it that would include punishment but also remediation.”
Sartell highlighted that he wants to hear from the community and is committed to transparency.
“I’m more than happy to discuss the personnel decisions made and the activities and direction of this department. It is not my department. It is not our department. It’s the community’s department,” Sartell said. “It’s going to be here long after I’m gone and I’m just a steward doing your work for you. If it’s not being done in a manner that’s consistent with your values or ethics then we need to have a conversation to see whether or not that can be reconciled.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Selectmen also heard from state Sen. John Cronin.
Cronin spoke to the Student Opportunity Act of 2019 and how it could lead to an increase in funding for the North Middlesex Regional School District. With the legislature’s commitment to the act, the district should see an additional $3.4 million in funding.
“I represent the Wachusett Regional School District as well and I know towns always feel squeezed with the contribution they have to make to support the regional districts,” Cronin said. “So, I’m excited that the legislature is meeting the commitment that it made when it passed the SOA in 2019.”
Cronin also said that with the American Rescue Plan, $2.8 million in direct local aid will be coming to Townsend. He said there is wide latitude for what the money can be used for, however, pension liabilities is one thing it will not be able to be used for.
Cronin has also secured a $20,000 earmark for the Senior Center/Council on Aging.
Later in the meeting, the selectmen heard from Todd Arsenault, chair of the Flag Committee. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the committee has had difficulty achieving a quorum and finding a way to put them up safely. Several members terms had expired and the selectmen will appoint new members in time for the committee to meet on Thursday. The hope is that all parties will find a way to get flags on display in time for Independence Day, something they all agreed the town would like to see.