Hudson police sergeant appeals board decision on promotion

Jeff Malachowski | The MetroWest Daily News

HUDSON — Two months after selectmen denied Police Sgt. Thomas Crippen’s promotion to lieutenant during a heated board meeting, Crippen has filed an appeal with the state Civil Service Commission.

Despite scoring an 88 on the Civil Service exam and being the highest-scoring candidate for the lieutenant’s job, board members rejected Crippen’s promotion in early July. Selectmen Joseph Durant and Fred Lucy voted to promote him, while chairman James Vereault, and members Christopher Yates and Charles McGourty voted no.

A 15-year department veteran, Crippen was recommended for the promotion, to fill one of two vacant lieutenant positions by Police Chief David Stephens and Executive Assistant Paul Blazar. Selectmen must approve the promotion for it to go into effect.

In his filing with the Civil Service Commission, Crippen’s attorney, Andrew Gambaccini, said Vereault, Yates and McGourty each had conflicts of interest involving Crippen.

“In Hudson, each of the three members of the board who voted to reject Sergeant Crippen’s promotion present with unique conflicts and with records that demonstrate their animuses and improper behavior,” said Gambaccini.

Gambaccini called Charles Freeman, who is suing the town and several town employees including Crippen over alleged abuse of the legal process and civil rights violations, a “political ally” of Vereault. With the appeal, Gambaccini filed photos of Freeman campaigning for Vereault during this May’s election.

Yates, an attorney, represented Freeman in matters in front of the Conservation Commission in 2009 and 2010, and also represented the Crippen family on more than one occasion, according to the appeal. Yates denied representing the Crippens.

“Interestingly, despite his historical role in that matter and despite what a reasonable observer could believe as to the propriety of his involvement in the decision, Yates elected not to recuse himself from the discussion and vote and in fact cast a no vote against Crippen’s promotion,” Gambaccini wrote.

Vereault and Yates declined to comment on the allegations discussed in the appeal.

In a letter to the town, Gambaccini called the rejection of Crippen’s promotion “a curious and telling procedural sojourn” and bypassing Crippen for promotion violated Civil Service rules.

“The Civil Service statutory scheme was constructed and is applied so as to remove politics and impermissible other motivations from decision-making as regards civil service employees,” wrote Gambaccini. “The behavior of the town as it relates to Sergeant Crippen’s promotional opportunity has been an affront to those principles, as well as a perversion and corruption of the appropriate processes.”

Yates called the appeal premature, saying the board did not bypass Crippen and violate Civil Service because nobody else has been promoted to the two vacant lieutenant positions.

“The board will not have bypassed anybody until we promote somebody else,” said Yates.

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