By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — Members of the Atkinson Police Association know who they want as their next police chief: acting Chief Patrick Caggiano.
Caggiano was named acting chief Wednesday night after selectmen voted to fire longtime Chief Philip Consentino.
Before Caggiano could settle into his new role, the union endorsed him for the permanent job.
He’s not the only one settling into a new role. Town Manager William Innes has taken on the role of elderly affairs director — temporarily.
After 45-year veteran Consentino was fired, selectmen moved to fill his two roles with existing employees.
But the 15 union members want the word interim removed from Caggiano’s new job title.
“His skills are unmatched and he has an extensive knowledge of the profession,” Detective Nicholas Fiset said. “We recognize how good of a teacher and leader he has been.”
Consentino was a part-time chief, working 25 hours a week.
It’s possible the next chief will be full time, but that would require a Town Meeting vote. It’s early in the process. Consentino emailed selectmen Tuesday evening to announce his intention to retire April 2.
Selectmen men the next night and fired the chief, citing the results of an independent investigation into a personnel matter.
It’s been a busy week.
“There has always been discussion about making it full-time,” Selectmen’s Chairman Fred Childs said yesterday. “But we haven’t decided what we want to do yet.”
No one knows whether Caggiano would be interested in a part-time position; he didn’t return several phone calls yesterday.
“I don’t know if he would want a part-time or full-time job,” Fiset said. “The entire body feels he would be an excellent police chief, whatever fashion that is in is something that would have to be figured out.”
How long Caggiano could serve as acting chief isn’t clear.
But Innes said he only intends to lead elderly affairs for 90 days. While he does, he said, he plans to fully explore how the department operated under Consentino.
“The organization was a political base that was built and exploited in the past,” Innes said. “I just want to ensure that that there is a code of ethics in place that defines the roles and responsibilities of the director and drivers of organization. I haven’t been able to find a document that says what the elderly affairs department does.”
Innes said the salary and the hours of the future director have not been discussed just yet. Consentino was earning $100 a year during his tenure as director.
The elderly affairs department had previously things like buy cigarettes and groceries for older residents, Innes said, something he would like to eliminate.
“That’s not the role of the department,” Innes said. “The role of the department is to ensure the seniors in town have transportation to medical appointments and for some other things which need to be defined.”
The elderly affairs budget this year was $44,500, most of which to pay drivers, gas and maintenance.
The department also used about $30,000, Innes said, from an independent charitable fund run by Consentino. Innes said he hopes to create a new fund for those purposes, records of which could be kept by the town.
“I want to create an environment where money is being appropriated in the right account in town,” he said. “If donations that came into the charitable account now come into a town account, we will be able to provide similar services.”
In the meantime, Innes said they would be using money from the general assistance fund. The 2013 proposed budget calls for the fund to have $14,400.
Innes said he would also look into separating elderly affairs from the police department.
“By separating this out, we can figure out exactly what funding we need in the police department and what kind of funding we need with elderly affairs,” Innes said. “There are a lot of things in the departments that we don’t have a handle on right now because of the way it was being run.”
Innes wants to bring seniors into the process and plans to hold an open forum in the upcoming weeks to learn exactly what they expect from the department.
“I don’t want to do this without them,” he said. “I want to know what works and what doesn’t work. I want to know what they’d like to see changed. I want them to have involvement and input so the department can meet the needs of all of our seniors.”