Town Meeting members voted by a near 3-1 margin Monday night to support a key component of Chief Paul Shastany's plan to , backing an article to establish the position of Deputy Police Chief.
Despite some vocal opposition during a lengthy discussion of the article, it easily passed by a vote of 99-36.
The vote created the position of deputy; it did not set any parameters of the job, except for the fact it will be exempt from Civil Service.
The Massachusetts State Legislature (both the House and Senate) must now approve the creation of the position before it can be officially established.
Monday, May 7 marked the start of the in Stoughton, with Town Meeting Representatives and town officials gathering at the .
While the Deputy Police Chief position was Article 28, Town Meeting members, at the request of Finance Committee Chair Holly Boykin, agreed to vote on this article before voting on the budget (Article 9), since the Police Department's proposed budget included funding for a Deputy Chief.
Chief Shastany, who was not able to attend the meeting (he was attending a conference), addressed Town Meeting members as part of a prerecorded message.
"No one should feel comforted that we are the best reactionary police force," Shastany said. As part of a plan to make the SPD more proactive, Shastany conveyed the need for a Deputy Chief.
Town Meeting member Barry Crimmins said he was "concerned" the chief was not able to be in attendance for discussion of the Article and asked if the Chief was aware this would be discussed Monday night (as the Article was being taken out of order). Interim Town Manager Joseph Feaster, Jr. said the Chief was not aware.
But, both Feaster and Board of Selectmen Chair John Stagnone spoke on behalf of supporting the article. Feaster needed to make a motion for the article since the Finance Committee had voted not to approve it (citing concerns with it not being a Civil Service position and its non-union status in regards to including an Education allowance as part of the benefits package). Other town meeting members echoed these concerns.
Stagnone said if the person is new to the department he/she wouldn't receive education incentives, but if this person was already part of the department he/she would still receive them. The position of Deputy Police Chief is new, but the person who will be the Deputy Police Chief may not be new to the department, Stagnone said.
Crimmins was one of the many vocal supporters of the Article who cited the progress the Police Department has made in Shastany's two years as Chief.
"This department is in a much better position today than it was when he was hired," he said.
Town Meeting member Dr. Roberta Camacho, also a member of the FinCom, felt removing the position from Civil Service was "discriminatory." She questioned whether there would be duplication of services between the Chief and the Deputy and if the town would be "paying for the same thing twice."
Other Town Meeting members lauded the work of the SPD under Shastany, but were concerned with establishing a long term position and what might happen in the future with a different chief in charge of the department.
Others were concerned with the cost of adding a new position.
"Some of the previous speakers have handcuffed the chief," said Town Meeting member (and About Town columnist) Mark Snyder, who spoke in favor of supporting the article, citing the advancements the department has made in technology () and how the Chief has been .
"His judgment has been exceptional," Town Meeting representative Dennis Gada added.
The Article passed, with seven out of eight precincts backing it (Precinct 1 was the lone precinct to vote against the motion).
Town Meeting also tabled Article 2 (receive reports) and passed Articles 3-8 (enterprise fund budgets for Ambulance, Cedar Hill, Public Health, Sewer Department, and the Water Department, as well as an article for revolving funds).
Town Meeting will resume with session #2 Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at SHS, where the FY13 Budget (Article 9) will be discussed.