Webster police chief calls out select board over ‘micromanaging’

  • Webster resident Henry Bouchard (right) chats with the town’s police chief, Ben Liberatore, in November, shortly after the chief took over the position. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Sunday, August 06, 2017

Less than one year into the Webster police chief’s tenure, the town’s top lawman and the select board are apparently at odds.

The board has been “micromanaging, scrutinizing, singling out and trying to run the police department” since his first day on the job, police Chief Benedict Liberatore said, according to a statement he read during the board’s July 17 meeting.

Liberatore went on to say that a select board member and a “third party” had informed him he’d been accused of performing a medical procedure he wasn’t certified to perform.

“When asked, who, what, when, where, and how, both parties refused to say any more. I’m requesting the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a full investigation into this matter,” he said in his statement.

Liberatore clarified in an interview he had asked the sheriff’s office to look into whether he had acted appropriately, not the person who had made the complaint.

“They’re investigating me. I am not above the law,” he said.

Liberatore concluded in his statement that he has endured “repeated harassment, defamation of character” and that this has caused a “hostile work environment” that has made it impossible for him to perform his duties.

It’s unclear why, exactly, the board and the chief are butting heads. Liberatore declined to elaborate on what his disagreements were with the board, saying that he preferred to resolve the matter more privately.

“There was no intention for me to go to the paper,” he said. “Someone gave (my statement) to the paper.”

Bruce Johnson, the board’s chairman, said in an email that the board supports the chief.

“The Webster Select Board supports all of our employees and volunteers. The efforts of all those who contribute is necessary for a small town to function successfully,” Johnson wrote. “The Chief is entitled to make whatever comments he wants to make. The Select Board has no response at this time.”

Asked why the chief might feel the board was inappropriately meddling, he deferred to the officer.

“I cannot speak for the Chief. You will have to ask him directly,” Johnson wrote.

Liberatore, a former Connecticut state police officer, was offered the position late last August, and started in October. The process of hiring him had been a long one, with the town at first struggling to attract enough applicants.

Writing to residents at the time to announce Liberatore’s arrival in town, Johnson had sounded a hopeful note.

Liberatore, he wrote, was “willing to be a long-term solution. Willing to put 10 years into this.”

Webster resident Jon Pearson said he has issues with the police department, some of which pre-date Liberatore’s tenure. But he said his chief complaint is with the select board, which he said isn’t addressing the matter publicly.

“When you have issues come forward, they don’t address them. They just let them fester,” he said. “We need transparency. As taxpayers – we don’t know what’s going on.”

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