Metro

Milton selectmen decline to renew police chief’s contract

The Milton Board of Selectmen on Tuesday declined to renew the contract of Police Chief Richard G. Wells Jr., a 32-year member of the force who has led the department since 2007.

“The Board’s dispute with Chief Wells is a contract dispute,” the panel said in a statement on its unanimous vote to not renew his contract. “It has been about money, precedent, and the integrity of the bargaining process and contracts, nothing more and nothing less.”

Wells, 60, the department’s chief for the last nine years, took issue with the board in a phone interview on Wednesday.

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“I wasn’t looking for money,” Wells said. “I was looking for some terms to be cleaned up in the contract. . . . Anything they gave to you on paper to try to make it look like greed on my part is absolutely false.”

bill brett
Milton Police Chief Richard Wells.
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Selectman David T. Burnes and Selectwoman Kathleen M. Conlon declined to comment beyond the board’s statement.

According to the board’s statement, Wells in 2014 sought to enter the Senior Manager’s Program, which allows certain public safety officials to voluntarily give up accrued sick leave over a three-year period in exchange for pay hikes over regular cost of living increases during the same time frame.

The board voted to enroll Wells in the program on more generous terms than he was entitled to, in an effort to “facilitate” his entry into the program with the expectation that he would retire on June 30 of this year, the statement said.

Wells was told that if he stayed on beyond that date, he would have to take a 10 percent pay cut, a reduction meant to “prevent employees from receiving a windfall by having their base salary artificially inflated without returning accrued sick days to the Town,” the statement said.

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The chief, who wanted to retire in August 2017, objected to the pay cut, according to the panel. Wells’s father retired during the month of August when he left as chief of the same force.

On Wednesday, Wells denied that he initially sought to join the program. Instead, he said, the board suggested he enroll in it, which he did reluctantly.

“It’s hurtful, I’ll tell you that,” Wells said of the impasse. “This is really hard for me, because I just try to do the best job that I can.”

The board said a counteroffer made by the chief’s attorney would have bumped his salary to $172,082.97 in fiscal 2017, instead of accepting a pay cut that would have lowered his salary to slightly less than $163,000.

He now has the option to retire in July or stay on the force at a lower rank. He said Wednesday that he has not yet decided whether he will remain with the department.

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Joseph Fahey, president of the Milton Police Patrol Officers Union, said in an e-mail that the selectmen “appeared to have bargained in good faith with the Chief. . . . [W]e respect the fact that the Board held the Chief to the contract he signed.”

The panel said that Chief Wells, who wanted to retire in 2017, objected to a pay cut.

Town Administrator Annemarie Fagan declined to comment, except to say that she has worked with Wells for 21 years and “it’s a very difficult issue for me.”

Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey, whose office works closely with Wells’s department, praised him in a statement.

“In my view, Milton has a very well trained, well led, professional department,” he said. “ . . . This is a loss of talent and experience.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.