By K.C. Myers | Cape Cod Times
PROVINCETOWN — Taxpayers will owe former Police Chief Jeff Jaran $512,797, as the town has signed an agreement with him to stop any further appeals and lawsuits related to his dismissal.
Town officials agreed to pay the former chief, who was fired in December 2013, about $150,000 so he would give up any further options to sue the town, according to Selectman Thomas Donegan. That amount is on top of about $362,000 that an arbitration panel previously ordered the town to pay Jaran in lost benefits, salary with interest and legal fees. The agreement also means that the town cannot appeal the arbitration panel’s decision.
Judgment was entered Monday in Barnstable Superior Court to affirm the arbitration award and settlement, according to the court docket. The agreement ends a long chapter of controversy in Provincetown.
Donegan called the $150,000 the “cease-fire” payment.
“In the end, it’s bittersweet,” Donegan said. “We’ve done the best for the town because it would have cost us a lot more time and money than $150,000 to win an appeal.”
The selectmen found that Jaran’s contract provided enormous protections and benefits for the chief, Donegan said.
The town will never sign a contract like that again, he said.
Town counsel had in fact strongly advised former Town Manager Sharon Lynn not to agree to that contract when Jaran was hired, according to emails between Lynn and Michele Randazzo of the law firm of Kopelman & Paige.
Randazzo advised Lynn in May 2008 not to include an arbitration clause in Jaran’s initial three-year contract. Randazzo wrote that some sections of the contract addressing discipline would be “unworkable, extremely costly to the town and potentially provide to the chief rights — and damages — that he would not otherwise be entitled to under the law.”
Lynn gave him that contract anyway and included the same language in his 2011 contract, which was extended to five years, even though town counsel advised keeping to a three-year pact.
Since then, the selectmen have made a policy change so that if town counsel and the town manager have a strong disagreement, town counsel is obligated to tell the selectmen about it, Donegan said.
It was a difficult lesson to learn, Donegan said, “but I’m glad the town is getting itself together and is on the right path.”
Jaran was fired for interfering with a local selectman’s race after he urged his staff members to vote for Austin Knight, whom he described as the pro-police candidate, in the May 2013 town election. He also instructed a lieutenant to get campaign signs from Knight’s garage so they could be distributed at the police station. An independent investigator and an arbitration panel found that Jaran’s campaigning violated local, state and federal laws.
When Jaran appealed the termination, however, arbitrators also found that his penalty should have been only a one-year suspension without pay. The panel ordered the town to cover his legal fees and back pay.
Jaran, who has since moved to New Hampshire and is unemployed, called blaming the contract and the former town manager — who resigned in 2013 to take a job in Delaware — a “poor excuse.” The town still has not found a replacement for Lynn.
“I have felt all along that this matter could have been resolved long ago and at a lot less expense to the town,” Jaran said via email. “Look where Provincetown stands today after they pushed out the former town manager. The town leadership … now can’t find a suitable replacement because in the end who would want to risk their career in that toxic political climate?”