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Selectmen to weigh town’s concerns over interim chief

Last modified: 5/19/2015 12:42:47 AM
After two public hearings where residents have urged caution, Weare selectmen will take more time to consider whether Interim Police Chief Sean Kelly should be hired as town’s part-time chief.

Last night, selectmen said they would take residents’ concerns under advisement and look closely at Kelly’s proposed three-year contract at their next meeting, May 27.

Later in the meeting, selectmen Chairman Keith Lacasse stressed that the contract in front of selectmen was not a final draft.

The second public hearing on Kelly’s hiring yielded many of the same comments as last week’s. While the majority of residents who attended the hearing said they had no concerns with the quality of Kelly’s leadership, they still disagreed with having a part-time chief.

Kelly is retired and collects a pension from the New Hampshire Retirement System. As such, he can only serve on a part-time basis, not exceeding 32 hours per week.

Last night, residents said they believed selectmen should have considered more candidates before making a decision.

“I think you should have gone through the process and see what’s there,” resident John Lawton said. “If he really wants to be chief of Weare, he can suspend his retirement and become full-time chief.”

At the meeting, selectmen said that after former chief John Velleca’s departure in the fall, Kelly had presented the idea of transitioning to full-time chief to town officials.

At the time, the idea was dismissed, town officials said.

Selectmen added that they had recently approached Kelly about becoming part-time chief, not the other way around.

Town resident and state Rep. Neal Kurk presented multiple modifications to the interim chief’s contract, which he called “not particularly fair to the town.”

Kurk’s suggested modifications included having Kelly only contracted with the town for one year, lowering his salary to $62,400 without any raises and getting rid of any vacation time.

Kelly’s contract has his salary starting at $78,000, gradually raising it to $87,107 over the course of three years.

Other residents voiced support for Kelly and having a part-time chief.

Town resident and school board Chairwoman Marge Burke said she agreed with having Kelly stay on for three years.

“Giving him a one-year contract is not going to have him or the department time to move forward on some of the changes that are taking place,” she said. “I think it’s fair to give him the time, give the department some time to have some continuity.”

After many of the residents had left the meeting, selectmen said they would take a harder look at Kelly’s contract and consider some of the changes proposed by residents. They would then renegotiate Kelly’s contract with him.

“If we can’t meet 50-50, then we have to move on,” Selectwoman Jennifer Bohl said.

Selectmen said they wanted to go through the contract paragraph by paragraph and have the town lawyer also take a look.

Lacasse disagreed with the notion brought forward by some residents that selectmen were giving Kelly a better deal than the town.

“There was a couple of accusations that we’re trying to do what’s in the best interest of Sean Kelly,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re all here because we’re interested in what’s best for the town.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)


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