By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — A day after police Chief Philip Consentino announced his retirement, selectmen were still tight-lipped about the situation.
Selectmen’s Chairman Fred Childs said Consentino, 72, was placed on administrative leave two weeks ago.
Childs would not discuss details of that action.
Consentino emailed his retirement announcement to selectmen Tuesday. He cited health reasons for his decision to retire April 2 after 45 years on the force.
He also is retiring as director of elderly affairs, a department he established and has led for some 20 years.
But Childs said he learned about Consentino’s retirement yesterday morning.
“I was surprised when I read it in the newspaper,” he said.
Selectmen had scheduled a nonpublic meeting with Consentino last night, Childs said, but he wouldn’t offer any details about the purpose of the meeting. He did say that meeting was scheduled Monday, a day before Consentino announced his retirement.
Sgt. Patrick Caggiano has been in charge of the police department since Consentino was placed on leave, according to Childs. At the police station yesterday, department employees said Consentino was not expected in.
“The chief is retired,” dispatcher Lynne Cunningham said when asked. “He is not expected to be back.”
It was not clear who was running the elderly affairs department in the interim.
Childs said it was too early to discuss the process for finding Consentino’s replacement for both positions.
Town Manager Bill Innes said yesterday he, too, was surprised to learn of the chief’s retirement plans. He refused to comment on why Consentino was placed on administrative leave.
Consentino’s tenure has been marked with controversy, including complaints to and an investigation by the Charitable Trusts Unit of the Attorney General’s Office in 2008.
But Consentino has his supporters as well. Many senior citizens said yesterday they were upset to learn about Consentino’s retirement.
“I’ve been dreading the day that this man retires,” said Ellen Muller, 73. “He’s done wonders for the town and for me.”
And many seniors are worried about the future of the elderly affairs department.
“We are all worried that the selectmen will not honor the legacy and the standards that he has established,” said Kay Galloway, 73.
For others, shock was the first reaction.
“I was surprised to hear that he would be retiring,” said Connie Bartlett, 73. “He’s been a part of this town for so long.”
Selectmen Bill Friel and Todd Barbera, and town attorney Sumner Kalman did not return phone messages yesterday.