EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 13, 2013

Fired police employees may take action

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — Two fired police employees are pursuing legal action against the town.

Master Patrol Officer Michael Beauchesne and dispatcher Cherie Deloge, both employed by the department for more than 20 years, were fired last week by Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald.

Yesterday, Fitzgerald would not elaborate on why they were fired.

“We don’t take these matters lightly,” Fitzgerald said. “We take them very seriously. We all have responsibilities to protect the standards for the municipal responsibilities.”

But the former employees are disputing the terms of their dismissal. They have filed unfair labor charges against the town with the Labor Relations Board.

The firings were unjust, according to Jeffrey Padellaro, a business agent for the Teamsters union that represents some members of the police department. Padellaro wrote a letter to Fitzgerald Sept. 4.

“Your attempt to somehow label or indict these two employees as being not worthy of being re-employed by the town, as it would be detrimental to the town, is outrageous and only showcases your ignorance and hypocrisy,” he said in the letter.

Padellaro also wrote there was a “major morale issue” in the police department.

“There has been a mass exodus of good, hardworking employees, most who have gone to other municipalities that treat their employees far better than the Town of Plaistow currently does,” Padellaro wrote.

In the last few years, Fitzgerald said, one police officer was fired and two other officers retired. Selectman Daniel Poliquin said two police officers recently left to join other departments.

Padellaro wrote he was recommending unfair labor practice charges against Fitzgerald and police Chief Stephen Savage.

Savage did not return a request for comment yesterday.

Fitzgerald would not comment directly on the letter, but defended the police department.

“We have some of the most talented men and women in New Hampshire in our department,” Fitzgerald said. “We have some long-term employees and some newer officers. It is important that some of those inflammatory tactics don’t cause people to lose sight of the terrific work that we’ve got going on in the police department.”

At least two selectmen said Padellaro’s claims against the town are unfair.

“(Padellaro) has taken it upon himself to act in a thug type and inappropriate manner,” Selectman Joyce Ingerson said. “If he believes this is how the police department would want to be represented, then he is clearly mistaken. I can guarantee you this is not the reflection of the majority of the police department. His views and opinions are his own and in no way reflects a true sense of representation.”

Poliquin defended Fitzgerald’s decision to fire the two employees.

“We don’t terminate people without just cause,” Poliquin said. “From everything I know about the case, there is no question that there was (cause).”

Fitzgerald said he expects an arbitration hearing to be held shortly

“We will protect the due process that the town has supported,” he said. “We have a standard for due process. The employees have a right to exercise independent reviews of these actions through arbitration and there is a check and balance. We do our best to make good decisions and don’t take this lightly.”