South Hampton’s Police Department has been staffed by Dennis and one other full-time officer along with eight part-time officers. Dennis said during his time as chief, the department was able to modernize its fleet of cruisers and maintain its high level of service to the town’s 800 or so residents.
“I’m very proud of both organizations. I regret my body kind of gave out on me,” Dennis said.
Dennis said he did not know who would be taking over for him as police and fire chief, saying the decision is up to the South Hampton Board of Selectmen.
Dennis’ long tenure in West Newbury was marked with periodic battles with selectmen, prompting some to question his leadership.
In 2011, following Dennis’ retirement, former West Newbury Selectman Tom Atwood released a trove of internal documents containing numerous complaints of overly aggressive police behavior under Dennis’ watch. Many of the complaints were directed toward former Salisbury police Chief David L’Esperance, who served under Dennis in West Newbury for several years before becoming chief in Salisbury. L’Esperance resigned as Salisbury’s chief in January 2011 during an investigation into allegations of illegal conduct.
In 2007, current West Newbury police Chief Lisa Holmes sued Dennis, claiming, among other charges, that he discriminated against her, violated her civil rights, humiliated her in front of her fellow officers and made sexually inappropriate jokes. Selectmen were also named in the suit because Holmes alleged that they failed to investigate her complaints.
In the weeks leading up to Dennis’ decision to announce his retirement, word of possible conflict with South Hampton’s Board of Selectmen began to surface.
Yesterday, Dennis refuted any notion his decision to step down was based on anything political.
“It’s time for me to take care of my family and my health. It’s been a good career in West Newbury and (South Hampton). This is a decision I made with my family and my physician, that’s all,” Dennis said.
South Hampton Selectman Pamela Noon declined to comment on Dennis’ decision or whether his announcement caught the board by surprise.
“He’s retiring because of a health problem,” Noon said.
Blais — who worked as finance director in West Newbury before going to Newbury — said yesterday she was looking forward to seeing her husband more.
“From my perspective, I’m elated,” Blais said.