EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 1, 2013

Police chief fired after independent investigation

Selectmen cite results of independent investigation

By Alex Lippa

---- — ATKINSON — Just one day after longtime police Chief Philip Consentino announced he would be retiring, selectmen voted to fire him, citing the results of an independent investigation.

Selectmen voted unanimously in a nonpublic meeting Wednesday night to fire Consentino, 72, as police chief and elderly affairs director.

“The termination is effective immediately,” Town Administrator Bill Innes wrote. “Mr. Consentino is no longer a town employee.”

Consentino, who had been with the department for 45 years, announced in an email Tuesday night that he would be retiring April 2, citing health reasons.

He was not asked to attend the meeting Wednesday.

Selectmen made the decision to fire the chief after reviewing the results of an investigation into a personnel matter, they said in their statement.

Consentino was put on paid administrative leave from both positions Feb. 5, pending an investigation by an independent consulting firm, selectmen said.

After the board reviewed that firm’s report, selectmen decided it was “appropriate” to fire Consentino, according to the statement.

“Whereas the subject matter related to Mr. Consentino’s termination relates to his employment,” they wrote, “it is confidential and will be kept confidential.”

Only one of the three selectmen returned phone messages yesterday.

“This decision was taken really seriously,” Selectman Todd Barbera said. “This is not something we take lightly.”

Neither Innes nor Barbera would comment on the circumstances that led to Consentino’s firing.

Mark Giarrusso, Consentino’s attorney, said yesterday it was not a criminal issue, but would not elaborate further.

“We haven’t gotten anything official in writing,” Giarrusso said. “We have to find out why they are doing this and we will take it from there.”

Phone calls to Consentino yesterday were not returned.

Selectmen named Sgt. Patrick Caggiano as acting police chief. Innes will serve as acting director of elderly affairs.

Caggiano said the department did not wish to comment on the situation.

Innes said the decision to vote to fire Consentino in nonpublic meeting is allowed under RSA 91 -A:3. The RSA says, “Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic session shall be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting.”

Giarrusso said town attorney Sumner Kalman called him yesterday morning to inform him of the selectmen’s decision. Consentino had not seen the independent report, according to Giarrusso.

“I don’t know why they took this step,” he said. “He wanted to leave gracefully. He wanted no bad feelings with the town.”

Consentino was frustrated with the town’s decision to put him on administrative leave, Giarrusso said.

“I don’t think there were sufficient enough details provided to (Consentino) to do that,” he said. “He was very surprised by that.”

Giarrusso said Consentino had been mulling retirement for several weeks. The attorney said he didn’t know whether Consentino had decided to retire before or after he was put on leave.

“He wanted to keep his health coverage until April,” Giarrusso said. “He wanted to have retired sooner, but he couldn’t financially.”

Consentino is a part-time employee, who earns less than $30,000 a year. He would not have been eligible for retirement benefits even if he had not been fired.

Consentino was hospitalized over the weekend, due to chest pains and shortness of breath, according to Giarrusso. He took a two-month medical leave in 2011.

Selectmen’s Chairman Fred Childs, Selectman Bill Friel and Kalman did not return phone calls.