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Police chief resigns
By Caitlyn Kelleher



ASHBURNHAM -- Police Chief Roy "Skip" Bourque voluntarily resigned his position, effective Monday, after nearly two years in the job.

The Board of Selectmen voted to accept his resignation last week.

Bourque, who has 14 months left in his three-year contract, has been at the center of a town-wide controversy for more than a year.

The controversy started after he placed Sgt. Robert Brennan on administrative leave for approximately six-months.

He has also fought to bring a new emphasis in the department on community policing, which some officers and residents resisted.

"Professionally, the uncommon problems associated with changing a small, tight-knit and traditionally reactive police department into a more transparent, proactive, community policing and service-oriented agency presented an intriguing challenge," Bourque wrote in his resignation letter.

Bourque also wrote that he enjoyed the work he had done "to prepare Ashburnham for both growth and the new law enforcement challenges."

He also said he enjoyed working with many town residents and officials.

"Thus, it is with much reluctance and sincere regrets that I am voluntarily offering my resignation notice ... for me to be able to pursue other full-time career and educational opportunities," he wrote.

Bourque offered his 30-day written notice on Feb. 7 to Interim Town Administrator Norm Thidemann and Thidemann informed the Selectmen in executive session that evening, according to a press release from Thidemann.

"Chief Bourque's resignation is both amicable and voluntary," according to a press release from Thidemann.

Former Town Administrator Katherine Nunez hired Bourque in May 2003.

Bourque worked in the Leominster Police Department for 25 years before accepting the position as Ashburnham Police Chief.

"I have helped many less fortunate people and plan to continue doing so, but as has been mentioned in our discussions, disagreements concerning the goals and philosophy of community-policing have hindered making changes and negated my ability to assist in furthering those goals," wrote Bourque.

Bourque submitted his resignation because "he thought that this was a propitious time for him to make a change," according to the press release.

He also said he thinks the new town administrator should be able to hire his or her "own management team."

Selectman Chairman Ronald Reed said he would not comment beyond the press release.

Thidemann said he will appoint an interim chief, and that person will take over immediately.

"We'll announce that (person) on Monday," said Thidemann. "There are a couple of details that need to be worked out."

Thidemann said there will not be a gap in the leadership of the department.

The Ashburnham Police Union and Dispatch Center Union voted no confidence in Bourque in June 2004 citing "serious concerns as to how the internal investigation of Sgt. Robert Brennan has been conducted," his management style the hiring and screening processes he used.

A group of residents, Concern Ashburnham Residents Evaluate Situation, have expressed similar concerns and submitted a non-binding vote of no confidence in Bourque as well as Nunez.

The members of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association voted their support of Bourque during two meetings in 2004.

"That was an absolutely impossible situation," said George DiBlasi, the director of government affairs for the association. "The chief should have gotten more support from the Board of Selectmen."

DiBlasi, who spoke with Bourque on Friday, said "he's very positive. He's ready to move on."

DiBlasi, a retired police chief, said the year-long situation "is incredibly bizarre" and he equated "Ashburnham to the Twilight Zone."
 
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