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Cops, town agree on deal
Dismissed officers to share $30K settlement
BY SHAUN MORIARTY
NEWS STAFF WRITER
BRIMFIELD - A long-running dispute between town officials and former police officers continues to near an end after the two sides reached an agreement on a settlement of nearly $30,000.
The settlement agreement was negotiated with the state Labor Relations Board and was approved on Feb. 15 by a Superior Court judge. The resolution includes no admission of wrongdoing by the town and does not require Brimfield to rehire any of the 17 individuals that were not re-appointed by the Board of Selectmen on July 3, 2003.
At that time, just before the thrice-annual Brimfield Antiques Show and Flea Market, eight part-time police officers, seven auxiliary officers, a sergeant and a lieutenant planned to affiliate themselves with the Teamsters union. Selectmen opted not to reappoint the officers to one-year terms.
The dismissed officers believed the ousters were part of a union-busting effort and filed a complaint with the Labor Relations Board.
Currently, there are no full-time positions in the Brimfield Police Department, including Police Chief Charles T. Kuss, who is paid for 10 hours a week.
Charles H. LaPerle, president of the Brimfield Police Association, previously indicated that the settlement would be distributed among the complainants. The officers who have not since been rehired will get a greater share of the money. Todd Canedy, Shannon Bingle, Timothy Grant, Daniel McCarthy and Joel Norton, who was a sergeant at the time of the board's failure to reappoint, were all rehired as part-time police officers in the department in November 2003. Grant and McCarthy have left the Brimfield Police Department. LaPerle, 35, has since been hired as an officer in West Brookfield.
Selectmen Chairwoman Diane M. Panaccione indicated that McCarthy would not be receiving any of the settlement because of deductions with taxes.
The Brimfield Police Association was formed shortly before the officers planned to affiliate themselves with Teamsters Local 170.
According to Panaccione, an article seeking payment of the $29,937 settlement will be on the warrant for May's Annual Town Meeting. If the townspeople vote against the article, the money will come from "under-funded accounts."
Panaccione was not able to elaborate on the settlement, noting that town counsel Kopelman & Paige has recommended the Board of Selectmen refuse comment for the time being.
The town is not out of the woods yet, as former Brimfield Police Lt. Earl J. Dessert, now a Vermont state trooper, has indicated he would hire a lawyer. According to the settlement, Dessert is not entitled to any share of the money because he had supported the union effort, but reportedly had no intention to join.

POLICE PROBLEMS LENGTHY
The police problems in Brimfield started April 30, 2003, when former Police Chief John D. Jovan Jr. retired, citing family reasons and a change at his full-time job, after irreconcilable differences with selectmen. He is now a member of the Southbridge School Committee.
Jovan had proposed a reorganization of the department that selectmen shot down. He suggested adding another sergeant to the 23-member department to manage the growing number of auxiliary officers, who were hired to manage the antique shows and flea markets along Route 20.
Robert Boucher was appointed interim police chief in May 2003, but division and controversy marked his tenure. Part-time officers were not happy to see him return to the department in any capacity, while several members of the force claimed he sexually harassed them.
Shortly after they received a letter from Dessert imploring them to "act and act immediately" to reappoint all of the town's police officers, selectmen decided not to reappoint the department. Selectman Robert Cheney said at the time that Dessert's letter was the catalyst for all that happened in Brimfield since, but he also noted that the new police chief should make the decision on reappointing the officers.
With many surrounding communities refusing to send officers to help Brimfield through the antiques show and flea market, the town's claim to fame was patrolled by officers from the Massachusetts State Police, Wales Police Chief Richard Ullery, Boucher, and Auxiliary Officer Katherine Koprowski, who was appointed just days before the rest of the department was let go.

Shaun Moriarty can be reached at (508) 909-4142, or by e-mail at [email protected].
 
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