COHASSET — Selectmen have voted 4-1 to clear acting town manager Michael Milanoski of an accusation that he interfered in an internal police investigation.
The allegation came in May from Police Chief Mark DeLuca — at about the same time that Milanoski placed DeLuca on paid administrative leave following accusations of misconduct filed by the police union against the chief.
“We voted to exonerate Mike Milanoski of any wrong doing,” selectmen chairman Paul Carlson said following Tuesday’s decision. Newly elected Selectwoman Martha Gjesteby cast the sole dissenting vote.
DeLuca could not be reached for comment, but his lawyer, Edward McNelley of Boston, criticized the selectmen’s decision, saying it was based on an investigation that was “biased and unfair.”
McNelley also complained that he was not allowed to speak “on the chief’s behalf” before the vote at the selectmen’s meeting, and has not received any specific information on the union’s complaints. “I have asked on 10 different occasions for written allegations and still haven’t received them,” he said.
Cohasset officials have not detailed the allegations, saying they “include, but are not limited to, forging important documents, physical abuse, and abusing . . . authority during an internal affairs investigation.”
Carlson defended the board’s decision to exonerate Milanoski, and said the investigation into the chief was continuing. He said once the investigation is complete, either Milanoski or an independent hearing officer will hold a hearing — and Milanoski will decide whether any action is taken against the chief.
“Under the Town Manager Act, [Milanoski] is clearly the person responsible for handling this case,” Carlson said. “The only role for the Board of Selectmen going forward is if Chief DeLuca decides to appeal Milanoski’s finding.”
DeLuca’s allegation against Milanoski stemmed from an incident on May 19 — Cohasset’s local Election Day — when Milanoski complained to the chief that a police Humvee with a banner supporting a “24/7” police station was parked at Cohasset Common near a polling station. Keeping the station open was a campaign issue.
DeLuca contended that the call triggered an internal police investigation, and that Milanoski interfered by suggesting to the union president that the matter could be resolved if the union paid for the overtime of the officer responsible for the banner.
Two investigators reviewing DeLuca’s allegations for selectmen focused on whether Milanoski knew an investigation was underway, and whether his discussion with the union chief amounted to interference. The final report exonerated Milanoski on both points.
“The Chief came to a rush to judgment solely on the word of a 3rd party witness,” the report said, referring to an e-mail Deputy Chief William Quigley sent to DeLuca, which described Milanoski’s proposal that, if the union paid for the overtime, “the matter would be settled.” In the e-mail, Quigley said that police union president Patrick Reardon told him about the conversation.
Milanoski and Reardon acknowledged to investigators that Milanoski had suggested the union pay for the overtime, but both also said that the payment was not to “make [the matter] go away,” the report said.
The controversy is the latest to stir the town, where selectmen fired then-town manager Michael Coughlin in March after an escalating war of words between Coughlin and Water Commissioner Peter DeCaprio.