Dalton police chief’s exit package worth $141K

Dalton police chief’s exit package worth $141K
By: Larry Parnass | The Berkshire Eagle

DALTON — The cost of resolving a dispute with its former police chief cost Dalton $141,339. And 60 cents.

The amount represents the time left on Chief Jeffrey E. Coe’s contract, which ran to June 30, 2021, as well as nearly $30,000 in accrued vacation and unused sick time and a flat $10,000 payment for health insurance benefits he won’t receive. The town also agreed not to contest a possible unemployment claim by Coe.

A copy of the confidential seven-page agreement was released late Tuesday by the town, in response to a public records request from The Eagle.

After spending several months this year on paid leave, Coe agreed to leave the job he had held since 2012, as the town moved to consider disciplinary action against him. That action arose after a former female police officer alleged that Coe treated her differently, a claim the chief’s attorney called baseless.

The agreement reached June 18 cut short that disciplinary review, overseen by an outside hearing officer, and led to the financial settlement. The pact notes that “the parties are desirous of resolving this matter without incurring any further litigation costs.”

The settlement says neither party was at fault or made any admission of wrongdoing. Separately, the town provided a “to whom it may concern” letter, also dated June 18, that, in effect, clears Coe of allegations against him.

The letter reads, “The Dalton Select Board has determined that, in light of the testimony and evidence presented on June 5, 2020, there is not just cause to impose severe disciplinary action against Chief Coe.”

Though Coe and the town have parted ways, the separation agreement calls for the former chief to remain available to assist Dalton at a cost of $45 an hour, including travel time. That work would involve cooperating on police matters “relating to events or occurrences during his employment with the Town, including but not limited to the execution of affidavits or documents and testifying or providing information requested by the Town.”

Robert W. Bishop Jr., chairman of the Select Board, has declined to comment on details of the agreement, which bars officials from speaking about Coe’s job performance.

“The parties agree that they will not make any oral or written communication to any person or entity which has the effect of damaging either’s reputation,” it says, “or otherwise working in any way to either’s detriment.”

The agreement was signed by three of the town’s Select Board members as of June 18 — Bishop, Joseph Diver and Edward Holub, who has since completed his term.

Member John Boyle, who opposed the disciplinary action, did not sign the agreement, according to the copy reviewed by The Eagle.

“For the Town, this paragraph applies to, without limitation, the members of the Select Board who sign this Agreement,” the document says.

The payment includes $102,028.64 for pay that Coe would have received through June 30, $14,411.76 for accrued vacation time, $14,899.20 for unused sick time and $10,000 to offset health insurance benefits he won’t receive due to leaving.

Dalton agrees in the settlement to cover Coe against any future legal claims that might arise from his service as chief. That could become an issue if the town is the target of a lawsuit arising from a young woman’s suicide last November. A Dalton officer, John Marley, did not respond in person to a dispatcher’s notice about a call reporting that the woman was despondent. Marley was fired by the Select Board but is challenging his dismissal.

The June 18 agreement also required Coe to return all town property, including “any and all leather gear (duty belts, holsters), rain coats, winter coats, spring coats, wallet badges, hats, hat badges, collar brass, bullet proof vests, vest carriers, flashlights, Department ID cards, portable radios, handcuffs, pepper spray, baton, and Department-issued firearms.”

In addition to the payout to Coe, the town is obligated to pay the hearing officer hired to supervise the review. That officer, Patricia A. Vinchesi, held one session June 5. Later sessions were canceled as the town and Coe moved to agree on his departure.

The town’s agreement with Vinchesi called for her to be paid at the same hourly rate as the town’s legal counsel and to cover her mileage for travel to and from Dalton.

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