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Monson chief resigns his post
Curtis M. McKenzie has had a colorful career in Monson.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
By KIM RING
[email protected]

MONSON - The town's police chief has submitted his resignation and will leave his post next month, two and a half months before his contract was set to expire without being renewed.

Curtis M. McKenzie, in a letter to selectmen, tendered his resignation effective April 15. He did not detail his future plans and could not be reached for comment last night.

Selectmen voted late last year not to rehire McKenzie after his three year tenure was up. Board members never said why they weren't renewing McKenzie's contract. Since that time the chief has filed nomination papers and is apparently running for a selectman's seat in the April 4 election.

The move also sparked a citizens' group to start a petition drive that would have the town accept the provisions of a state law allowing for local officials to be recalled from office. The group has not returned the petitions.

At their meeting last night, board members thanked McKenzie, who did not attend the meeting, for his service and accepted his resignation.

McKenzie, a former Springfield Police Sergeant, has had a colorful career in Monson.

The department suffered the loss of officer Michael Bolaske in a traffic accident and also mourned the loss of Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Piwcio.

McKenzie was also witness to a police shooting inside the Magic Lantern. In the May 2003 incident, Police Sgt. Robert K. Shuemaker shot Mark Merrill after a police chase that started when Merrill allegedly wielded a knife when stopped by a Monson officer.

Inside the strip club, according to police, Merrill threatened officers with a large barbecue fork and was shot by Shuemaker. He died later at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Shuemaker was cleared in an investigation by Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett's office. Shuemaker is currently on sick leave.

Some have speculated that the chief's nomination of Shuemaker for a prestigious George Hanna Award for Bravery for the shooting may have sparked the board's decision to let McKenzie go. The award was not given after Merrill's family complained. The Department of Public Safety has not returned recent telephone calls seeking information about the status of the presentation.

Selectmen have denied that the award influenced their decision.

"We were completely blind-sided by that, but it wasn't the factor that affected our decision," selectman James Manning said in November.
 
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