By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — ATKINSON — Police Chief Philip Consentino, 72, announced his retirement last night after 45 years with the department.
In an email to selectmen yesterday evening, Consentino cited past and present health issues as the reason for his decision. He referred to a hospital stay this past weekend.
He also will be stepping down as director of elderly affairs, a role he has served in since he established that department some 20 years ago.
“It has been a great 45 years and I feel confident in retiring at this time due to the great police force I have put together over the past several years,” Consentino wrote to selectmen, “and the terrific guys that work for the Elderly Affairs Department.”
Consentino said his last day will be April 2.
He cited support from many residents and his great pride in the elderly affairs department.
“I think the greatest part of my tenure was developing probably one of the best senior citizen programs in the southern part of the state,” Consentino wrote.
Elderly affairs provides transportation, financial assistance and more to the town’s oldest residents. Previously, Consentino estimated he works 15 to 20 hours a week in that role — without pay.
Those dual roles were not without controversy over the years.
In 2008, after receiving some complaints, the Charitable Trusts Unit of the Attorney General’s Office conducted a three-month inquiry into Consentino’s dual roles of police chief and elderly affairs director.
Detractors complained Consentino wielded too much power and controlled too many accounts, a system muddied by a lack of transparency and accountability.
The state agreed — to some extent. Some changes were made and the state appeared satisfied.
Even last year, there was an effort to move the elderly affairs department out of the police station. But Consentino and his supporters fought back and the effort failed.
In 2011, Consentino was on medical leave for some two months. At the same time, the town paid Municipal Resources Inc. to do an independent audit of the police department.
That 20-page report included about two dozen recommendations, ranging from updating policies and equipment to hiring more officers.
Consentino and selectmen appeared to have resolved their differences and the town hired a number of new officers to fill out the force.
A part-time chief at 25 hours a week, Consentino long refused raises and longevity pay. He earns less than $30,000 a year.
Prior to the MRI audit, the department lost some longtime members and the force was stretched to the limit. After the report and apparent resolution of differences between the chief and selectmen, Consentino started hiring.
The department website lists 13 patrol officers, a detective, a corporal and a sergeant.
Selectmen did not respond to requests for comment last night.
Earlier in the day, before the chief’s email, calls to board members about his status also went largely unanswered.
Town Manager William Innes and Selectman Todd Barbera did confirm Consentino was still the chief, but would not say whether he was on leave. Both cited personnel issues as their reasons for not answering that question.
Selectmen met Monday night for a regularly scheduled meeting. At the end of the regular meeting, less than 30 minutes long, the board voted to go into closed session, citing RSA 91-A:3 IIc, which addresses nonpublic sessions.
“Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting,” the statute reads.
No one would say yesterday whether that closed session related to Consentino.
Police Sgt. Patrick Caggiano, the second highest ranking officer in the department, said yesterday afternoon that Consentino was still chief and referred all other questions to Town Hall.
Phone messages left for Selectmen’s Chairman Fred Childs, Selectman Bill Friel and town attorney Sumner Kalman were not returned yesterday.
Consentino himself was not available yesterday and has been difficult to reach for the past two weeks. Prior to that, he told a reporter he hadn’t been well.
Over the years, Consentino would sometimes interrupt phone interviews with exclamations about his cows getting out or be unable to take a call because he was chasing an errant calf.
He referenced his farm in his email to selectmen last night.
”I look forward to working on my health problems, working around my farm and spending more time with my family,” he wrote.