EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 21, 2013

Termination hearing set for police officer

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — Selectmen hold a hearing tonight on the possible dismissal of police Patrol Officer Eugene Stahl.

Stahl, as is his right under public labor relations law in New Hampshire, requested the hearing be open to the public.

Selectmen announced the hearing yesterday.

It is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 6 Village Green.

The public notice said the session is “to determine if there is just cause for the removal” of Stahl.

Selectmen’s Chairman Ed Gleason said the hearing relates to Stahl’s “conduct in the line of duty.”

Those circumstances will be detailed during the hearing, he said.

“That’s what the hearing is about,” Gleason said.

Police Chief Joseph Roark has recommended Stahl be dismissed, Gleason said.

Roark confirmed he is recommending Stahl’s dismissal and said he will present his reasons at the hearing tonight.

The chief said he was reluctant to discuss those reasons beforehand because the issue remains a personnel matter and Stahl could change his mind about the hearing being public.

“I’m in a unique position,” Roark said. “I’ve never, in these type of hearings, had a person request that it be public.”

Gleason also could not recall such a public hearing in his eight years as selectman.

Stahl did not return a phone call, but Officer Thomas Goulden, president of the Pelham chapter of AFSCME Local 3657, which represents patrol officers, said he will have union representation.

Goulden would not discuss the circumstances of the disciplinary case against Stahl, but said the union, which includes about 20 members, is concerned that Stahl receive legal due process.

Stahl in the past year has been involved in a shooting incident and a verdict being overturned in a road rage case, though it is unclear at this point whether those factored in the consideration of his dismissal.

The state Attorney General’s Office last December concluded Stahl and two Windham officers were justified in firing at a Pelham man who fled police.

In April, a Hillsborough County judge set aside the conviction of a Windham man in a road rage case after the prosecution failed to disclose Stahl was on a list of police officers with potential credibility issues.

The hearing will be completed tonight, although a decision isn’t expected.

Gleason explained the selectmen’s role in the process is to act as an impartial, judicial-style board as administrators present their case.

He said they would take the case under advisement and are unlikely to issue a decision for at least a couple of weeks.

Administrators will have 40 minutes to present their case against Stahl.

Stahl and his representatives, who could include an attorney or someone from the patrol officers’ union, will have 40 minutes to respond.

Both sides will have 10 minutes for rebuttal.

Should selectmen decide against Stahl, officials said the officer, or the union acting on his behalf, could pursue a labor arbitration case or take the matter to Superior Court.