Friday, May 10, 2013

Transcript of Selectboard Meeting that Ousted Bucknell

Here's the transcript.  Note how quickly they acted to suspend Bucknell, and only then tried to figure out what to do next.  Also note all the indications that this didn't come as a surprise to the selectboard.  There's something rotten in Denmark.
Officer Pilone:            Jeremy Pilone Police Officer Town of Egremont presenting each of you with signed affidavits and some evidence to support the whole reason that we are here tonight, and if you would I would like to read some documents that we have prepared.  Last week we met as the Police Officer’s Union for this town to hold a vote of no-confidence in Chief Bucknell.  This is based on several months, and which I found out to be years, of dwelling issues within the police department that have resulted in a lot of discord, failure to act, many issues that we are now dealing with.  There’s been a serious divide that has been occurring between all of us as police officers and the Chief, which I believe was mostly to her own doing.  After all the meetings and complaints and issues that we had, we met to discuss this vote of no-confidence.  This was last week on February the 14th.  It passed unanimously with all officers casting their vote.  Based on that, we all submitted information documents, if you will, to Mr. Tighe, the personnel director, stating all of our claims individually.  If you don’t mind I’d like to read the majority of mine just to give you an idea of what the back story is here.  Since I became employed by Egremont Police Department in November of 2012, I have noticed several serious issues that have become extremely problematic over the last few months.  Originally I was promised the world and led to believe that if I accepted the police officer position that “I would become the next Chief of Police in Egremont.”   Knowing that this was my career path goal, Chief Bucknell sold me this vision only to change it shortly thereafter.  Once employed I was told, “I will be the new supervisor to help define a rank structure for this agency.”  I later found out that this too was a farce.  This all began during the hiring process when Chief Bucknell would call me several times during the day and night to chat, if you will.  These chats were filled with disparaging remarks about the current Egremont police officers, select Board members and other applicants for the position.  I found it odd that Chief Bucknell was so candid with me being that she had never met me and had only spoken to me briefly over the telephone.  I felt that this was a sign of things to come.  The issues began once I arrived at Egremont for my interview.  I was sequestered from my only competition─who happened to be Officer Carlson who was later hired─and only allowed to meet the only other full time officer, Officer Reise, for a brief second because she “didn’t want him to get bent out of shape because I was more experienced than him.”  Once appointed and working, I was given very odd shifts and told that it was result of “being plugged into the preexisting schedule.”  I was assured that this would change in December and the following months.  The pattern continued for every month and has not yet normalized.  Additionally, Chief Bucknell went to great lengths to keep me away from other members of the agency.  I was routinely told to either leave early or report late, because she “had it covered” or “had someone coming in for an interview or appointment,” which never happened.  This ultimately left the town without police presence for an undetermined amount of time on a routine basis.  When I inquired as to when I would meet the other officers in the department she jokingly replied “I don’t want you to become like them and gang up on me.”  I pressed the issue and was finally allowed to start meeting the others but only under her watchful eye and supervision.  During any downtime, I was routinely given information on the other officers and town employees and told not to trust them.  All of this information was negative and usually personal in nature.  Considering the fact that I was new, on probation and had no reason not to trust Chief Bucknell, I believed everything that I was told and began to resent the other officers and majority of the town employees.  It was only after speaking to officers Carlson and Reise about the bounty of innuendo and rumors that I realized that this was an effort of Chief Bucknell to put the members of these agencies against each other.  Never in my 20 years of law enforcement experience have I seen a supervisor go through such great lengths to divide and conquer an agency.  Additionally, I had never been made to feel so disrespected and demoralized because of the chief’s poor and non-existent leadership style and extreme micro-management.  Once I started my own investigation into the Chief’s odd behavior and inconsistent statements, I uncovered some very interesting information.  It helped me understand why these issues were occurring.  First, I was lead to believe that Officer Reise was to blame for the inconsistent schedule.  When in fact it was due to the Chief basing her own schedule around a teaching job at Berkshire Community College, which she vehemently denies having, even though she is listed as the criminal justice program director and we also discovered that there has been many pay issues as well through mass general loss.  I’m sorry, through the mass public records law websites.  Secondly, she had been also telling Officer Carlson and Officer Reise the same things about this new supervisory position, thus setting us up for an altercation and hostility towards one another.  Lastly, she forced my hand to act when I did not want to by way of fear, intimidation and a false sense of entitlement, i.e., speaking in her defense during town meetings and other settings.  Also, I’m going to interject here, through speaking with other officers and also into some other investigations that came to light, there have been numerous allegations of misappropriation of town funds and services as well.  All that information is included in the documents that I had provided to you.  Based on this, the Chief has effectively created a hostile working environment for all the officers in which the unity and brotherhood that are commonly found and encouraged in all law enforcement agencies has been completely destroyed.  I routinely feel ill reporting for duty because of the constant barrage of lies, misinformation and drama I may face while walking through the door.  It is disheartening to be a member of this agency that is the brunt of jokes from other law enforcement agencies in the area which view the Egremont police as the laughing stock and an unprofessional department.  This is largely attributed to the actions of the Chief and the extremely high turnover rate once again attributed to her lack of leadership.  I made this commitment to the town and to the citizens to protect and serve here.  Thus far, I have performed my duties with integrity and pride only to be lied to and made feel like a second class citizen.  I believe that we as the Egremont police officers owe it to the town to ensure that the agency receives a much needed overhaul so that our job can be performed without interference, micro-management and hostility.  This is why I voted in favor of the vote of no-confidence in Chief Bucknell last week.  I feel that this agency is on the verge of a major breakthrough and could be a great place to work as opposed to a breeding ground for other agencies and the black sheep of Berkshire County law enforcement.  I will gladly do my part to make sure that this effort is not in vain.  Just to let you know, I have been appointed, if you will, to speak for the members of the agency, so I know I have all their support and if we can do anything to provide any documentation or any other statements, I will gladly do that for you. 

Selectman Flynn:            Just to give the people in the audience a little bit of background, Officer Pilone retired after 19 years, 20 years on the Miami-Dade police force.  Officer Carlson came to us after 15 years on several other departments full-time serving as detective, lieutenant and in other supervisory roles.  Two very, very experienced police officers.  We were able to hire both of these gentlemen with the assistance of the finance committee back in November.  And what they did is they really, they rounded out what was already a very good, but sometimes overtaxed, part-time force.  And now gives us in Egremont full-time protection.  24/7 protection.  I’ve also read each and every one of the memos from the other officers including Officer Pilone’s, and I find the charges that they make to be quite serious.  And I don’t take those charges lightly.  And they warrant further investigation. 

Selectman Brazie:            Some of this information is coming to me new tonight because I’ve been involved in an issue for about a week and a half that kept me out of the office.  I would like to apologize for any part that this Board has had and the difficulties that the officers of this town have had.  I would like to make a motion, at this time, that we suspend our police chief, with pay, remove her from her duties while an investigation takes place and that the investigation take place no longer than two weeks from tonight.  And, as well, I think she should be asked to turn in her keys for that two-week time period. 

Selectman Flynn:            I second that motion.

Chairman Turner:            Approving this motion.   I’m just gonna say, this puts us all in an awkward and very uncomfortable situation here guys. 

Officer Pilone:            Agreed.

Chairman Turner:            And I know this is, I’m sure, difficult for you because effectively we have mutiny.  If you want to call it that.  A difficult situation for us because we have to investigate our long-serving Police Chief.  However, we have to do the difficult things.  And I’m not sure how this is gonna fall out into place here because obviously the Chief’s not here and she’s entitled to due process and we will have to go through that due process and I hope you’re able to assist us in that due process.

Officer Pilone:            Most definitely.

Chairman Turner:            I’m looking at all of you guys because this is not gonna be fun for any of us.

Officer Pilone:            Well I would like to say that I think for the first time in many years, in the history of this agency, we have effectively become a united effort here.  We are, I think as close as any other squad or unit that has been through this agency and I think that’s due on behalf of everybody here from police department that this has given a new spark of life into the agency.  And I hope it’s a sign of good things to come.

Chairman Turner:            Do you guys have any more discussion?  I don’t know how we are going to make this play out, but all those in favor?

All:                               Aye.


Selectman Flynn:            Mr. Chairman, I think the one thing I’m gonna need to do is we’re gonna need to appoint a temporary chief.

Chairman Turner:       Do we do an officer in charge?

Selectman Flynn:        Or an officer in charge, which may be better, appoint a temporary officer in charge, we’re going to have to draft a letter and deliver that letter to the Chief identifying what we have done and the vote that was taken and the reason for the vote.

Chairman Turner:            I think it’s gonna have to be more than a letter. 

Selectman Flynn:            Probably will.

Chairman Turner:            Somebody’s gonna have to go face-to-face.

Selectman Brazie:            And how could you do?

Selectman Flynn:            The Chairman does that.

All:                               Laughter


Chairman Turner:            I’ll do it, if you want me to.

Selectman Brazie:            And how quickly, I mean is that something that gets done tonight?

Chairman Turner:            Well hopefully.  The vote is in tonight, then it really should happen immediately if not sooner but quicker.

Selectman Brazie:            I have a couple of questions I want to ask the officers actually.  Do you have any fear that there’s going to be retaliation from this move?

Officer Pilone:               Most definitely.


Selectman Brazie:            Okay.  And do you have a recommendation on who is appointed acting in charge of whatever name it is that we would like to give it.

Officer:                         Yes, I think we’ve all effectively come together and appointed Officer Pilone as our spokesperson and our chosen leader.


Selectman Brazie:            Thank you.

Chairman Turner:            So I guess somebody ought to make a motion to that effect too.

Selectman Flynn:            I move to appoint Officer Pilone, temporary officer-in-charge of the Egremont Police Department during the suspension of Chief Bucknell.

Selectman Brazie:            Second.

Chairman Turner:            All those in favor?

All:                               Aye.


Selectman Flynn:            Thank you.  You now got the responsibility.  You now have the headache and you don’t get any pay for it either.

Officer Pilone:            I understand, thank you very much.

Chairman Turner:            We got to let things play out here.  But we have to, we being the Board, have to hold a hearing.  There’s due process.  So we have to figure out how we’re gonna do this.

Female Speaker:            Also, we should probably generate something for the media so things don’t get misconstrued.

Chairman Turner:            Things are gonna get misconstrued.

Female Speaker:            I know.

Chairman Turner:            This is not gonna be good.  This is gonna be, this is going to turn the town inside out.  This is not gonna be pretty. 

Selectman Flynn:        This is not gonna be fun.

Kevin Zurrin:            Takes the heat off of me.

All:                               Laughter


Selectman Brazie:            All right.  So to get back to this seriously.  Action needs to be taken tonight.  What is that action going to be?

Chairman Turner:            I think when we get done with this meeting we’re gonna have to make a phone call.  At the conclusion of our meeting tonight.

Male Speaker:              Mr. Chairman


Chairman Turner:            Yes.  But I think it might not have any effect.

Male Speaker:            I have to make a serious suggestion that you get in touch with the Town Council very quickly.

Selectman Brazie:            We’ve actually tried to do that.  Unfortunately our Town Council is away on vacation.

                                    [All speaking at the same time.]


Chairman Turner:            We have got a lot of work to do.  We have to do, I think, a notification.

Selectman Brazie:            So how do you accomplish that with someone who lives out of the area, quite frankly?  She lives in Otis.

Chairman Turner:            We’ll call her at home.  Say something.  You’ve got your hand up.

Male speaker:               Well, you didn’t say nothing.  I see you have an executive session police union contracts there.  Why don’t you . . .


Male Speaker:              Not everybody has to know all this stuff.

Selectman Brazie:            Because?

Selectman Flynn:            We can’t do it.

Male Speaker:            It’s got to be public.

Officer Pilone:               I just want to reiterate to the Board that all of us, me and the police officers, we’re definitely able and willing to assist in any way possible regardless of whether it’s, I mean . . .  I understand that you wanted to make the face-to-face and I appreciate that and I think that would make a nice statement.  Regardless, we are here to assist the Board in any way possible.


Selectman Flynn:            I think what we have to do is draft a notification on what is actually required by the law.  That she has been suspended with pay.

Selectman Brazie:            Bill is that something that you could be working on while we’re finishing up our meeting?


Bill:            Yes.

Selectman Brazie:            Okay.

Selectman Flynn:            And I think it needs to be drafted, signed tonight and delivered to her. 

Selectman Brazie:            I agree.

Chairman Turner:            Okay.  I’ll give them a draft and we are going to continue on with our meeting.  Would you guys hang around for a little bit?

Officer:                         We’ll be here, all of us.


Chairman Turner:            Okay.

Selectman Brazie:            Hans and Ed wanted to say something.


Chairman Turner:            Okay, yeah.

Officer Ed:                    Just so we’re all clear, maybe someone else covered this, but as officers, now clearly she’s been suspended, without [sic] pay.  Is there something if she tries to make contact, that we should be saying or doing [INAUDIBLE] if she calls?  Is there any statement you want us to make?  How do you want us to handle it?


Chairman Turner:            Any calls should be directed to . . . or me.

Officer Ed:                    So if she calls the station, just say please call ______________.


Chairman Turner:            Yes.

Officer Ed:                    Or if she comes here, on the off chance, so we just . . . not coming in . . . I just want to make sure we’re all clear on what she can and cannot do from here on out.


Selectman Flynn:            She should not, she should not be allowed within the police facility without an escort, and she should make arrangements ahead of time to get into the police facility and state specifically why she wants to come.  And she should not be allowed to leave with anything, cause we have, as of this moment, we have an ongoing investigation.

Male Speaker:            And that could be part of the draft letter to make sure that the point is very clear?

Selectman Flynn:            Yeah.  That has to be in the letter.

Male Speaker:            Okay.

Selectman Flynn:            We need her keys, the combinations to any of the cipher locks need to be changed.

Officer Hans:                My concern is we all know how the network of police chiefs work, in law enforcement, small town law enforcement especially in Berkshire County.  She’s very familiar with a lot of the people, other police chiefs, a lot of people and positions of powers, she’s demonstrated by bringing District, Assistant District Attorneys to meetings and things like that.  My concern is that if she’s still in possession of town property, identification badges, fire arms, things like that, that she could still be viewed as, during this time-frame when the investigation is occurring, as a police official, because a lot of times, a citizen or a layman who is presented with an ID or a badge or whatever, you know, somebody saying they’re police chief, they just believe it and take that as gospel, especially someone who’s been around as long as Ms. Bucknell has and I think I can effectively speak for everybody, there is a significant amount of fear that she will attempt to, you know, try to tarnish our reputations, or attempt to strike back or, you know, have some sort of retribution against us.  And I second what you said where, you know, her coming into the facility, she needs an escort and things like that, but there is, there’s a lot of things I think that—I’ve been through something similar to this before, where we need to account for, you know, things that are in the building, go through the evidence room, you know, and really take a very extensive inventory of things that are here, so that things do not disappear.


Selectman Flynn:            I don’t want to speak too much tonight, but I could add to Hans as well.  I mean what could potentially be in her personal possession in her home or wherever that is, that belongs to the town or is significantly _______ to the investigation.

Chairman Turner:            At this point in time, that’s the least of our concerns.  Because she’s just being investigated, nobody’s—there hasn’t been any charges brought, she hasn’t been relieved of her job, so there’s an investigation.  We have to do our due diligence.  On the other hand, Hanz’s thing, that’s something you signed up for, when you’ve came here tonight it’s gonna get ugly and she has a lot of power.  State, locally and it’s gonna get ugly.  We’ll stand behind as much as we can, everybody, because our job is to be as partial—impartial and fair as we can.  We’re doing this in the best interest of Egremont, but you got to understand that it’s gonna be ugly, and you may lose.  I hope, I hope we all come out winners in this, but it’s gonna be, you know, you signed up for this, you’re gonna have to expect some tough times in the next couple of days, weeks.  And I’m just being honest with you.

Officer:                         I certainly didn’t sign up for any of this.  I didn’t sign up for this type of harassment.


Chairman Turner:            No, I know.

Officer:                         I didn’t sign up for any of that but …


Chairman Turner:            We’ll do everything we can, beginning tonight, to help mitigate as much as we can, but this is, you know, dealing with a police chief, a long-time police chief, and any—is bad.

Female Speaker:            But you know what?  Excuse me for speaking.  Thank you all for coming and bringing this forward.  I respect everyone of you, you have a lot of—what’s the word I’m looking for, I’d hate to be in your shoes, and test and fortitude.

[Too many voices]

Female Speaker:            You guys really brought it to the forefront, but it had to have been coming for quite sometime, so I really appreciate it.  Do we ask for the badge while she is being investigated?

Selectman Brazie:            I think we have to ask for the badge.

Chairman Turner:            I think that’s pretty much what we’ve done here tonight.  The badge and the gun.

Selectman Flynn:            Badge, gun and keys.


Officer:                         Let me just make a suggestion too, as none of us part-timers have an ID, and as police officer a badge means absolutely nothing without an ID, so I think that it should be, just a suggestion, one of the things as well, because it doesn’t matter if you have a badge in your hand you just show your police ID and that’s who you are.


Male Speaker:              You don’t have ID?

Officer:                         No we told you we don’t have ID.


Officer:                         I don’t have an ID either.


Officer:                         Some full-timers don’t either, one does.


Chairman Turner:            You got to be kidding me.

Officer:                         If somebody asks me for my ID I by law have to show them my police ID.


Officer Pilone:            I’m still carrying my retired ID from Miami.

Chairman Turner:            Your first job as officer-in-charge is to get them IDs.

Officer Pilone:            Yes, sir.

Selectman Flynn:            Could I just say something?  I’ve been through this once before.  Nobody’s gonna come through this unscathed.  I will tell you that right now.  We are all gonna come out of this with a few black and blue marks.  And there may be a time during this whole process where you may ask yourself “What did I do this for?”  There will be light at the end of the tunnel.  You’re gonna come out of this, you may have a couple of black and blue marks, this will be a better police force and you will be better people for it.  There is no way in the world she has the power or the influence to disparage your reputations or your careers within the State of Massachusetts.  There are people that she is connected with.  There is also a very large group of people that she has become disconnected with.  So let’s go into this with our eyes open, deal only with the facts.  There can be zero innuendo.  There can be zero motion.  I know we’re proud to have you guys as our police officers, but we’re gonna go through a tough time for the next several weeks and maybe the next several months.  We don’t know, we don’t know how this person is gonna respond.  Please understand, deal with the truth, deal with the facts, take the emotion out of it, just be objective with everything we do.  Ultimately, we will get through this and it will be behind us.  But it’s gonna be a little while to get there. 

Officer Pilone:            Thank you sir, we appreciate that.

Selectman Brazie:            Bill, as well as drafting the letter, could you work up a media press release for us to look at?  Thank you.

Bill:            All right.

Chairman Turner:            That’s what you’re getting paid the big bucks for! 

Bill:            That’s right! [Laughter] 

Chairman Turner:            We have—what else do we need to do?

Selectman Brazie:            What we need to do?

Chairman Turner:            _____________________ contacting people.  This is not gonna go well.

Selectman Brazie:            No it’s not gonna go well.

[All speaking together.]


Chairman Turner:            And he’s smiling?

Selectman Brazie:            Ed before you leave if you don’t go out on a call, Charlie and I would like to speak to you about a different matter after the meeting.?

Chairman Turner:            Oh, I don’t get involved?

Selectman Brazie:            You’re welcome to listen.

Selectman Flynn:            You’re welcome to listen, you’ll like this one.


Chairman Turner:            Thank you, gentlemen. 

Selectman Flynn:            Watch your back

Male Speaker:            That’s why I wear a vest.
Chairman Turner: So do we have any other town officials who think we ________ bad-mouth _______?  New business.  I’d like to call aggregation. 


Anonymous said...

I have never seen a more incompetent, foolish, misinformed and arrogant selectboard in my life.
Nor a more self-serving, absurd, and immoral police officer than Pilone. They all should be recalled. Start the petition!

Anonymous said...

I agree. Having attended their meetings, they are bufoons (with angry Charlie as the Chief Bufoon)!

Anonymous said...

The select board being the bufoons that they are really has nothing to do with this. The fact is that Rena really is not a very good police chief. She has never had the respect of any of her officers and if you have ever talked with any of them you will learn this. If you have ever dealt with her as a citizen, she is very difficult to talk to and quite often speaks down to you. This is not a person who should be a person in charge or of influence. These 7 officers put their careers on the line here to bring to light a serious issue that we have had for a long time. It's time for this era to change and time for a new beginning. I don't personally care for this select board but I believe the correct thing was done. A problem was brought to their attention and they dealt with it. They're not lawyers and should not expect to respond like lawyers would but they did appear to take the situation seriously. They dealt with the officers, a letter to Rena, a press release and the publics input at the meeting. I understand that you do not like the select board Kevin and I believe that you got a raw deal and should not have been removed from finance but I also believe they got this one right. When an entire group of employees steps up to file a complaint, something needs to be done and they did it. I stood behind you during your dealings with the select board and supported you but if your intention is to get on the select board to try to save Rena then I can no longer support you. I have dealt with her personally on many occasions and it is my belief that she needs to go. I also think that many others in town feel the same way. It's time for a new beginning. Let this play out its course. Mistakes nay be made but in the end we will be a better town for it.

Richard Allen said...

The comment calling the members of the selectboard "buffoons" was made by "anonymous," not by Kevin, so I'm not sure what the reference to "Kevin" means.

For me, the issue is not whether Reena is a good police chief, but rather it's the way she was suspended without any notice or any opportunity to be heard. That is outrageous and unfair, and it subjects the town (and probably the individual members of the selectboard) to legal liability. And it should.

Anonymous said...

The Selectboard are the town managers and are responsible for many things. They have a Personnel Policy that clearly spells out Disciplinary Procedures. Further, Bruce Turner and Mary Brazie are quite aware of the Open Meeting Laws and how they apply to personnel matters. Charlie Flynn is just a confused man who has no idea of the laws and clearly doesn't care. This was completely improper. The Selectboard was NOT being impartial in handling this. It is clear from a reading of the transcript that it was expected. Flynn said he read the memos ahead of time and Brazie said they tried to reach town counsel in advance.

I have dealt with Chief Bucknell and my experience is totally different than some others. She has been informative, honest and considerate. I felt safe with Chief Bucknell and do not with Officer Pilone.

The treatment of Chief Bucknell - stripping her of badge, gun, ID and changing locks - based wholely on unsubstantiated charges led by an Officer that had been on the job for less than three months is foolish, improper and possibly illegal. Certainly the meeting produced slanderous remarks.

Anonymous said...

The selectmen have the right to suspend her with pay so I'm not really sure why you think it might be illegal. When 7 sworn police officers come forward with issues about their boss, risking their careers, there's a problem and the chiefs bosses should be obligated to remove her until the problem is rectified. She should not have been given any warning, she could have fired them all, removed paperwork, personnel records or evidence. And, chief bucknell knows how to be heard, if she wanted to say something she'd have done it by now. I'm sorry if you guys don't like the selectmen, I don't really care for them either but her police department was a mess. And before you remark about the other officers, keep in mind that teens thought highly enough of them to hire them. It's a mess, and it's time to fix it. When a police chief chastises one of her female officers so strongly after calling for backup at a domestic call that that officer quits, there's a problem.

Anonymous said...

Reena thought highly*

Andrei said...

Boston fire chief gets vote of 'no confidence' in handling of marathon bombings so I guess it's a common thing. In most cases, a vote of no confidence is saying more than, "We want the chief replaced." It is more than likely saying, We, the union members, would like you, the chief, to take a more responsive posture on certain issues; and we feel this is the only way that we can communicate, both publicly and internally, our displeasure over the policy decisions and other forms of action that have been taken. Most reasons cited for these actions can be grouped into three broad categories: lack of leadership, lack of communication and lack of support or caring for employees. Seems most of it there. However, the select board seems were not prepared for Pilone speech and acted too quickly without thinking much. To me it boils down to one thing - what is the least impact on the taxpayers moving forward.

Anonymous said...

"Nor a more self-serving, absurd, and immoral police officer than Pilone"

"The treatment of Chief Bucknell - stripping her of badge, gun, ID and changing locks - based wholely on unsubstantiated charges led by an Officer that had been on the job for less than three months is foolish, improper and possibly illegal."

This whole ordeal is an absolute joke. How anyone can say Pilone is immoral, or anything else derrogatory is a travesty. This guy (and his colleagues) took a huge risk to expose the horrible working conditions under Bucknell. For that you call him names and say you don't feel safe? Shame on you. If you only knew the whole story, you'd be picketing in front of town hall right now, not bashing the guy who wanted to clean up the mess. And by the way, he has been a police officer for twenty years with a real police department.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the previous writer would like to rethink his/her response. Pilone is gone for good reason.