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Embattled Ashland police chief placed on leave

Posted by Tom Coakley  April 1, 2013 01:06 PM

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Scott Rohmer, the embattled police chief in Ashland, was placed on paid administrative leave today by the new Town Manager Anthony Schiavi.

“We’re going to start with a bottom up review of the entire department,” said Schiavi, in a press conference after he made the announcement to the entire police department.

Rohmer’s contract expires in June and will not be renewed, he said.

The decision to move forward without Rohmer is the first step of many needed to turn the department around, said Schiavi, a retiring Air Force colonel.

“The first step in any recovery is admitting there’s a problem,” said Schiavi. “The community needs to believe in us again and trust us again.”

Four Ashland police officers have filed legal complaints in recent months against Rohmer, the town, and other officers.

Rohmer has denied the allegations and said today he is disappointed in Schiavi’s decision.

“I think the new town manager doesn’t have a full understanding of what’s going on,” said Rohmer, reached at his home after the announcement. “I’ve been a faithful servant of this community for 28 years as a police professional. I think the police department needs me there.”

He said he has been working hard to address the false allegations riddling the police department, many of them lobbed against him.

Two of the three legal complaints pending against Rohmer and others were filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, each by a female officer alleging gender discrimination and describing the department as an abusive and sexually hostile workplace.

The third complaint was filed jointly by Sergeant Robert MacQuarrie and Lieutenant Richard Briggs in Norfolk Superior Court in September. They allege Rohmer retaliated against them after they signed a complaint against the chief. Other allegations against Rohmer in their lawsuit include unethical spending of town money, covering up for a friend accused of a hate crime, and misusing department resources to investigate his wife.

The allegations in the lawsuit were investigated last year by Edward C. Doocey, a Quincy lawyer, hired by the town to specifically review the charges against Rohmer.

The most significant finding in Doocey’s report was that Rohmer had directed an Ashland officer to conduct a forensic search of his wife’s laptop computer and cellphone. Doocey rejected Rohmer’s claim that he had his wife’s permission to conduct the search.

Doocey wrote that he found no evidence to support most of the allegations, including the charge that Rohmer had covered up a hate crime committed by a friend. The person in question was charged with a hate crime, and reached a plea agreement, according to Doocey’s finding.

Doocey said there was no evidence that Rohmer had misappropriated department funds, although he did call the purchase of $13,000 worth of insignia jackets, some of which Rohmer acknowledged giving to family and friends, an “ill-conceived expenditure.”

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