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Former Pembroke selectman arrested

By Mary Salters, Enterprise correspondent

PEMBROKE — Former Selectman James Balzotti, who Vermont police say flashed a Pembroke, Mass., police badge in an altercation with another man, was arrested Saturday night in Brattleboro, Vt., and charged with impersonating a police officer, simple assault and disorderly conduct.

Balzotti, 50, was held overnight, arraigned and ordered to appear in Windham District Court on June 17 to answer the charges.

Brattleboro Police Capt. Steven Rowell said Monday that Balzotti produced a Pembroke police commissioner badge and presented himself to a man as a Pembroke police officer. Rowell said Balzotti then began to pat down the man, who was able to get away and flag down a Vermont state trooper.

Rowell said Brattleboro police received a report at 11:55 p.m. on Friday of a fight that was taking place. When police arrived, they saw three men walking north on Putney Road. After police investigated, they learned Balzotti and Richard Pittman, 45, of Orlando, Fla., had left the parking lot of Bacotes' Bar and approached the victim, whose name was not released.

Police said when the pair approached the victim, Balzotti produced a badge and presented himself to the man as a Massachusetts police officer. Balzotti began to pat down the victim, and when the victim questioned the validity of Balzotti's authority, Pittman struck the victim in the face, police said.

Pittman and Balzotti then began to leave the area. The victim followed them until police arrived so the suspects would not get away, police said.

Balzotti and Pittman were taken into custody and transported to the Brattleboro police station. Both men were held on $500 cash bail and were not released until they were sober, police said.

Rowell said as the victim chased Balzotti and Pittman, he was able to flag down a state trooper in his cruiser. The trooper called Brattleboro police to report the fight. Rowell said after police arrested Balzotti, the former selectman told officers he was not a Massachusetts police officer, but was at onetime Pembroke selectman who was given a badge because he was a police commissioner.

In Massachusetts, selectmen serve as police commissioners by virtue of their office. But not all area towns give their selectmen badges.

Balzotti, who lives in Pembroke, did not return phone calls on Monday.

Rowell said the three men had been at one bar and then went to Bacotes' Bar later in the evening. Rowell said there were conflicting reports on what the quarrel in the parking lot was about. He said Balzotti and Pittman were placed in custody at the police station at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and released at 9:30 a.m. after posting the cash bail.

Traditionally, when Pembroke selectmen leave office, they turn in their selectman's identification, police badge and Town Hall keys to the town clerk.

Pembroke Police Chief Gregory Wright was asked if there have ever been abuses of this tradition.

"The law permits selectmen to have badges," Wright said. "I see nothing wrong in it. One should not judge all by the bad conduct of one."

Former Selectman William Cullity said on his last night as a selectman in May 2002, he turned his badge over to newly elected Selectman Arthur Boyle Jr.

Former Selectman Vincent Cogliano Jr. turned his keys and badge in a year ago when his term expired. Cogliano said he got his badge six years earlier from late Selectman Charles Toupence, and was aware of the custom.

But Cullity and Cogliano were concerned that Balzotti never returned his badge in when his term ended two years ago. They have asked Town Administrator Edwin Thorne to file a report with the Police Department to track down the whereabouts of Balzotti's police badge.

Thorne could not be reached Monday about the status of Balzotti's badge.

Balzotti was first elected in an upset in 1998. His term was filled with controversy from the beginning as he charged fellow board members with conflicts of interest, cover-ups and hiding mail.

Shortly after he left office, Pembroke police got a call from Duxbury police that when stopped by officers in that town for questioning, Balzotti showed his badge, even though he was out of office.

After he left office, Balzotti continued to capture local headlines.

He and resident Chester Drown, a political rival, had a physical altercation at Town Hall. Balzotti was accused of punching Drown, and Drown was accused of grabbing Balzotti. Charges were brought by Pembroke police against Balzotti after they found probable cause in his attack.

After several hearings, the lawyers for the two sides asked that charges be dismissed without prejudice. Both men were asked to stay away from Town Hall.

Balzotti, who still lives in town, is currently in the process of selling part of his property on Barker Street to be developed in an adult complex of 24 townhouses called Barker Square under a Chapter 40B comprehensive permit.
 

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Re: Former Pembroke selectman arrested for Impersonating a P

Took the words right out of my mouth. I am all for tradition, especially up here in old-school New England... but do selectmen really need these badges anymore? They have no power, and what good could ever come of them carrying these...

When I first got my drivers' license, I was involved in a strange road-rage incident in my hometown. On a busy street, someone was tailgating me for a couple of miles. I saw him, and tried to speed up a little to get him away, but it didn't work. Eventually he crossed the double yellow line and slammed on the brakes in front of me and got out of his car in the middle of the street. It was rush hour and it made a mess, but apparently he was furious that I did not move over for him. (?!?!) He flashed a badge that turned out to be something along the same lines as this Pembroke case, but I was not fooled. Unfortunately, I did not have a cellphone or the sense to get his plate, but I figured it all out later.

Now that I said all that, I have no idea why... but I am bored doing a mid shift and felt like sharing. :)

-Mike
 
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