Hudson-Litchfield News

A Tribute to Captain William Pease:  Cheerio and Farewell 

by R. Rodgers

It was a fitting date for his retirement party – October 22 – perfect for a man who devoted that same number of years to a town he loves.  Police Chief Dick Gendron and the people of Hudson have had the great opportunity to have Bill Pease as one of Hudson’s finest for the last 22 years.  That role will now change as he retires from the department and moves on to the next stage of his life. 

Hudson Police Department Chief Gendron, Retiring Captain Pease, and Stat Senator Bob Clegg.

You will continue to see him on the ball field, at church, and in the community with his family.  During his retirement celebration on Saturday, the tables were littered with bags of Cheerios and the guests were relaxed and enjoying their longtime friend Bill Pease.  “I have never seen a guy eat more Cheerios than this guy,” said Gendron.

Gina Pease, Bill’s wife of 18 years, with the help of several police department employees, arranged for the celebration to honor and say a fond good-bye to Pease after 22 years on the job.  Pease began his career following his father’s example in 1984 in Hudson under Chief Blake.  He steadily progressed through the ranks over the years and retired as captain.  Pease was recognized for his leadership role in achieving the enormous task of national accreditation for the Hudson Police Department.  Bill was also the Chief Negotiator for the Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit.  His patience and dedication to the youth of Hudson on and off duty is something for all to aspire to. 

Chief Gendron welcomed the guests and introduced dignitaries in the crowd.  Senator Bob Clegg made a presentation from U.S. Senator Judd Gregg and awarded Pease with a flag flown over the capital.  Captain Ray Mello read a proclamation from Governor John Lynch, and Board of Selectmen Chair Ken Massey gave heartfelt thanks from the town.  Paul Keene from St. John’s Church praised Pease for his leadership and excellence as a role model in the youth ministry by donating $1,000 to the Susan B. Kolman Foundation.  At one point, during the many accolades, a small voice from the back of the room could be heard saying, “That’s my dad!”  Bill’s four children, Katie, Michael, Kelsey and Sarina, were all present and obviously very proud of their dad. 

Sergeant Mike Smith, famous for his slide show presentations, did not let the crowd down.  His presentation poked Police house humor at Bill, and his efforts were rewarded with robust laughter from the guests.

Honored and humbled, Bill Pease graciously thanked the assembled family and friends at his retirement celebration.  “Truly, from the bottom of my heart, till I take my last breath I will remember this night,” he said, quoting Chuck Gilbert who recently retired.  “Now I know what he meant,” Pease added.

The retired police captain shared his thoughts and wishes with his family and friends.  To his neighbors he said, “Where we live is the definition of a neighborhood.”  To his family, “not too many opportunities in life to say thank you, family always comes first, never forget that.”  For his wife, his pride and love for her is undeniable.  He thanked her for efforts in writing a bill passing legislation to protect newborns With the Safe Haven Act.  “Gina I have no doubt in my mind that you have saved babies in this state.”  For his children, “Katie Pease you are the perfect daughter, a real treasure.”  Michael, “you have taught me so many lessons, you are my best friend.”  The babies, “sometimes at night the sight of them snuggling I am in heaven, and honored to be your dad.” 

Gendron and his department gave Pease a very special gift; his badge and photo framed with his dad’s badge and photo.  “Bill is truly a family man, not one day in 22 years went by without him mentioning a member of his family.  We will miss you and our times kidding around,” finished Gendron.  They also gave Pease a personal laptop.  The evening ended with a very tempting urge to throw Cheerios!

O’Brion Prevails with Summary Judgment

by Lynne Ober

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Groff issued a summary judgment on October 24 in former Police Chief Joseph O’Brion’s favor.  The judgment found that selectmen’s claim that they had not fired him, but instead had failed to renew his contract still required that they follow RSA 105:2-a and provide written reasons.  Selectmen did not provide any written documentation, and that is not in accordance with the law and the basis of the finding for O’Brion.

O’Brion, appointed Litchfield police chief in July 2004, was chosen over two other finalists, one of whom was Administration Lieutenant James Gaudet, and began what selectmen characterized as a “temporary and probationary year-long” contract.  However, selectmen did not have him sign a “temporary and probationary contract.”  While the contract that he signed was for one year, it stated that it was for “a full time position as is consistent with New Hampshire RSA 105.1.”

When O’Brion was notified by Cecil Williams, Chairman of Litchfield Selectmen, on August 9 that he was no longer police chief, he had the option of returning to his master patrol position.  He did, but he also filed suit to be reinstated as police chief.

At the time of his promotion, O’Brion, who had been a master patrolman, was jumped over the two lieutenants to take the reins.  Friction between Gaudet, who was not promoted and O’Brion continued throughout the year.

“If I had it to do again, I’d bring in someone from the outside,” said Williams, who acknowledged that anyone who gets promoted over his peers would go through a difficult adjustment period. 

After an internal investigation into his alleged actions, Gaudet was placed on administrative leave with full pay pending a review. 

Before that review was completed, O’Brion was removed as police chief.  Subsequently selectmen petitioned the court to set up an impartial panel of previous selectmen to review the Gaudet case and to make a judgment. 

In writing his summary judgment, Groff wrote, “All facts properly pleaded by the plaintiff are deemed true and all reasonable inferences derived therefrom are construed most favorably to the plaintiff [O’Brion].”

During discovery, O’Brion stated that he had received a letter dated July 16, 2004, from selectmen that “in substance advised the petitioner [O’Brion] that the offer was for a one-year probationary term and that “upon satisfactory completion of the probationary period, the Board will be prepared to renew the contract for a three-year period.”  The petitioner also indicated in his deposition that he understood that the contract would automatically be renewed unless there was just cause under RSA 105:2-a.”

While the court did find that the O’Brion’s “appointment was probationary only,” other factors played a significant part in finding for O’Brion, specifically RSA 105:2-a that both selectmen and O’Brion agree was in force with his year contract.

Part of this RSA requires that selectmen present written specification of the reasons for termination.  This was never done.  After receipt of the written reasons, the RSA also provides that O’Brion was entitled to a hearing “on the merits and reasonableness of the action, in superior court in the county in which the municipality is located … The court shall have the power to affirm, modify or negate such suspension or dismissal based upon its findings.”

Selectmen disagreed that they needed to comply with this RSA.  However, the court found otherwise.  Judge Groff wrote, “RSA 105:2-a is not ambiguous.  An appointed chief may be dismissed “only for cause and after he has been presented with a written specification of the reasons.”  The statute makes no exceptions.  It does not limit its mandate to the duration of a contract, nor does it exempt appointment for temporary or probationary terms. … It is clear that RSA 105:2-a was to insulate the chief from political and personal retaliation under town government … The court finds that RSA 105:2-a applies in this case despite the assumed probationary status of the petitioner [O’Brion] and prohibits the town from not continuing the petitioner’s employment as police chief without complying with the requirements of the statute.”

So the bottom line was that the court did agree that O’Brion was on a probationary status, but did not agree that selectmen could unilaterally remove him without following the provisions of the law that requires written notification of the ability to perform the assigned job.

After the judgment was rendered, O’Brion stated that he was waiting to hear from his attorney about next steps, but that he was delighted and excited about going back to his job as chief.  “We need to move forward and work together.  This needs to be put in the past.”

Williams said that he had talked with the town counsel.  A special non-public meeting of selectmen was called for Tuesday night to discuss the summary judgment with the town counsel.  Selectmen gathered at town hall and patiently waited for town counsel, who never showed up. 

Selectmen Propose Fiscal 2007 Budget

by Doug Robinson

Hudson Selectmen will propose to the Budget Committee a fiscal 2007 town budget of $26,001,547.  This budget represents a 6.3 percent increase over the department heads’ request and a $1,532,905 increase over the approved 2006 approved budget.

According to Finance Director Kathy Carpentier, the overall percent of change in the health trust insurance premium increased 7.9 percent over last year.  The overall insurance premiums have a budget impact of $159,639 more than the fiscal year 2006 budget.

The selectmen have also projected general fund revenues to decrease from a 2005 actual of $15,854,241 to a 2006 budget of $16.965,278 to a proposed 2007 budget amount of $14,271,618.  

In looking at the fiscal year 2007 revenue, the largest areas of income reduction were as follows: interest on investments were reduced approximately 30 percent, community center fees were reduced to zero, and grants for both the police and fire departments were not included.  Areas for income growth are located in line items concerning interest on taxes 2000 - 2003, shared revenue block grant, and funds from the capital reserve account of $689,896.

The selectmen will now propose their budget to the Budget Committee during the upcoming meetings.  The default budget has been set at $24,949,065.  Budget meeting will be televised by HCTV.  Check the weekly calendar for times and dates.

Win a Ride with Santa!

Fire trucks and Santa Claus, what could be a better mixture for a child than to win a ride on a fire tuck with Santa! 

This year, the Hudson~Litchfield News is once again sponsoring Santa’s arrival on Friday, November 25.  Over the next four weeks, a puzzle piece will be printed for you to clip out of the paper.  Collect all four pieces, arrange and color them and submit them to the Hudson~Litchfield News for the grand prize drawing and you could win the ride of a lifetime.  Pieces will only be availible in the printed paper.

Santa and the winner will ride to Library Park to flip the switch that turns on the Christmas lights and marks the beginning of the holiday season.  Following the lighting and music provided by Alvirne High School Band members, Santa will once again embark on the fire truck with his friend in tow and travel to the Hudson Community Center where he will visit with each child and collect the information he needs for his “list.”  Watch your Hudson~Litchfield News for more information in the upcoming weeks.  Ho, ho, ho and good luck!

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