Drama in the small western Massachusetts town of Hinsdale continues. More than 300 residents have called for the Select Chair to resign, following the Board’s decision to put the police chief on paid administrative leave after she failed to complete state-mandated training.
Over the past few months, attendance at the weekly meetings in the town of nearly 2,000 has hovered between 35 and 50 people. Police officers oversee the room while residents aggressively voice their opinions during the public comment period that has returned to the agenda after being taken off for a couple weeks.
In November, the Select Board placed Police Chief Nancy Daniels on paid administrative leave after she failed to complete state-mandated training due to injury. At a subsequent meeting in December, former Select Chair David Kokindo presented the board with signatures of more than 300 residents asking for the resignation of current Select Chair Bonnie Conner. Kokindo says he stepped down as chair in 2012 because he was unhappy with the way town government was operating. Kokindo ran for a seat on the board in last year’s election but lost to Bill Goddard.
“They’re not addressing the town’s issues at all and to do what they did with the police department really created more of a mess,” Kokindo said. “They are concerned about the number of people showing up, well they’re showing up because of the actions that they’ve taken and the people are concerned.”
Bruce Marshall has been a Selectman for 36 years.
“At this point nothing is being done,” Marshall said. “Nothing has been done since they [Bill Goddard and Bonnie Conner] have been elected here. It’s been all police chief. Don’t know when it’s going to all end. But, it better end pretty soon because they’re going to destroy this town.”
Conner has said she ran for Select Board last year to try to straighten things out in the town, but since then, she says her time on the board has been overwhelming.
“We have a certain bunch of people whose criteria it is to do nothing but give you a bad time and waste your time with frivolous things,” said Conner.
Since Chief Daniels was placed on leave, the town’s seven part-time officers have been covering her typical full-time shift. At the most recent meeting Wednesday night, residents raised concerns that one of the part-time officers was logging full-time hours.
“I think he worked 124 hours last two weeks. I don’t think that’s right either,” Marshall said. “When you have a fully-trained qualified person that you could put on a part-time basis as the chief. Put away all this garbage. Just do away with it all. But, they don’t want that to happen. It’s a personal vendetta in my estimation.”
Conner says she was told by the state’s Municipal Police Training Committee that a part-time officer can work full-time hours on a temporary basis. It was not immediately clear whether a part-time officer can serve in such a capacity. Resident Jim Sullivan directed comments toward Conner, saying the town is wasting money in legal proceedings regarding Daniels’ status.
“So which is it?” Sullivan asked at the meeting. “Do you have a vendetta or do you want to help the taxpayers? Which is it?”
“I’m going to do what legal has advised me to do and that’s the end of this conversation,” answered Conner.
Conner has said the Board was following the law when it placed Daniels on leave and that she’ll be glad when things are settled. Daniels’ status is being worked out in a series of executive and legal sessions. Kokindo says he will once again gather signatures to support a petition for a special town meeting in hopes of forcing recall elections. He plans to present it to the board after the New Year.