SOUTHBOROUGH – Kenneth Paulhus is officially no longer Southborough’s Police Chief, leaving the job after being placed on leave earlier this year.
Town officials have not shared information on why Paulhus was initially put on leave, or why he is now departing.
The Select Board and Paulhus did announce this latest news in a joint statement last week, though, describing “a mutual agreement that [Paulhus’] employment with the Town would not continue beyond May 31.”
Paulhus, town agree to settlement
The statement, which was agreed to by the parties, said that the board and Paulhus had reached a written agreement to address the balance of “certain contractual benefits under his existing Employee Contract” with Southborough.
The town later released the text of that agreement in response to records requests, showing that, upon the execution of the agreement, Paulhus would submit his notice of retirement as chief.
He will receive a lump sum of $68,658.33, which amounts to five months of his base wage. He will also receive pay for 48 hours of vacation leave amounting to $3,802.56.
The town agreed to issue Paulhus an identification card pursuant to the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 upon request, which allows qualified, including retired or separated, law enforcement officers to carry a concealed firearm.
Lieutenant Ryan Newell is now serving as Southborough’s acting police chief.
Town considered investigation into unidentified individual
Paulhus took the chief position in Feb. 2014.
News that Paulhus was placed on leave was then first reported by MySouthborough in early March.
That came after an emergency executive session in February “to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline of, or complaints or charges brought against a public officer, employee, staff member or individual.”
The name of the individual at the center of that meeting has not been released. But the meeting was attended by the Select Board, Town Administrator Mark Purple, Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff and Paulhus.
The town has since released redacted minutes from that and other executive sessions.
During the February executive session, Feodoroff said that “the allegations are specific and come from sources that can be confirmed.
Those allegations, “if proven true, could require discipline,” according to Feodoroff’s comments, as noted in minutes.
Feodoroff said the allegations, which are not specified in this or any of the other released executive session minutes, came from multiple sources.
Feodoroff said she engaged a third party investigator, Jean Haertl.
“Mr. [Martin] Healey said that the Board is in an uncomfortable situation as well, and agrees that the [redacted] has served the Town admirably,” minutes noted.
Minutes continued, saying Healey, who was at that point a Select Board member, “also noted that the Board has a responsibility to determine if there is merit to the allegations being made.”
“Mr. Healey understands that Southborough is a bubble, and that the [redacted] not returning from leave will not go unnoticed,” minutes said.
The Select Board met in executive session several times in the subsequent months after that initial February meeting, including a meeting to discuss a “police department investigation,” according to released minutes.
In a May 5 executive session, Feodoroff told the Select Board that the investigation was completed, noting in part that “there was a consensus that cause existed for ending the relationship with [redacted].”
Haertl reported that there were interviews with 16 employees, including two females and several protected classes.
“In summary, she felt that supervisors need immediate training,” the minutes read, describing Haertl’s comments. “She further clarified that no supervisors but one knew of the [redacted] conduct. Part of the required training will be to explain to supervisors what their liability is (train on reporting incidents, update policy, develop a separate and distinct town-wide policy on discrimination harassment.)”
“It is important to re-issue policies that have non-intentional discriminatory intent,” minutes continued.
Select Board reacts
During the May 5 meeting, Select Board members reacted, with some voicing support of a settlement, as noted in minutes.
Chelsea Malinowski said she was “taken aback” by an initial settlement proposal from the person who was being investigated, however.
The person had asked to be carried on the roster through Sept. 12, 2022, to be paid through the rest of their contract through June 30, 2023, to use accrued leave and not to “contest” an ID card to carry a weapon, according to minutes.
Malinowski said she felt it was “detrimental to keep him on the rolls,” saying she was “not comfortable paying the balance of his contract.”
“Ms. [Lisa] Braccio did not anticipate this case and emphasized the Town must protect present employees who feel uncomfortable within the workplace,” minutes said.
Ultimately, the Select Board voted to delegate authority to Purple to execute a final agreement on behalf of the Select Board.