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Epsom police chief put on leave



Monitor staff
Thursday, January 04, 2018

Epsom’s longtime police chief, Wayne Preve, is on unpaid administrative leave, according to select board chairman Don Harty.

Members of the town’s select board declined to say why, citing personnel matters.

“He’s been an excellent chief for the town,” Harty said. “Very, very respected by people in town.”

A consultant with Municipal Resources Inc., a Meredith-based firm, has been working as the town’s acting police chief since Wednesday morning. MRI’s consultant, Richard Kane, a former Exeter police chief, will stay on just a week, Harty said, after which Preve is expected to return.

“Absolutely. No question about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the town is facing two lawsuits, partly in relation to the police department.

The first was filed in 2015 by volunteer firefighter Richard Bilodeau, who claimed town officials and the police department retaliated against him for complaining about sexual harassment by a male police officer. The officer acknowledged and apologized for the behavior, which he characterized as horseplay, and not harassment, and he was verbally reprimanded by Preve. The second suit, filed in 2017, was by a former fire captain, who claimed he was retaliated against, partly for sticking up for Bilodeau.

Both suits are ongoing, and Preve is not named as a party in either suit.

Partly in response to the suits, the town recently commissioned MRI to review the police department and recommend best practices. The report is being finalized, select board members said, and hasn’t yet been released to the public. Preve’s leave is unrelated to its conclusions, Harty said.

John Klose, a town resident and local lawmaker in the state House of Representatives, attended Wednesday’s select board meeting to ask town officials about Preve’s leave. Rumors are swirling, he said, and he’d returned from the State House that day to find several phone messages about the chief.

Select board members responded that on the advice of their attorneys, they couldn’t disclose anything other than to say an MRI consultant would be overseeing the department for a week. Klose pushed back. 

“You can say personnel – but boy, that affects everybody in town,” he told the selectmen.

 

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)