Chief Warden, Town reach agreement

Town of Shelburne statement regarding Chief Warden, page 2.

To read the town’s statement on Warden’s agreement click here.

By Mike Donoghue

The town of Shelburne and longtime Police Chief Jim Warden have reached a separation agreement ending his time with the department and allowing him to be paid as a consultant through Jan. 31.

Under the agreement Warden’s resignation was effective last Friday. He will continue to collect full pay and benefits as a consultant until Jan. 31 “in order to assure a smooth transition to new leadership.” Warden earns about $80,000 a year and will be allowed to cash in 253 hours of accrued vacation time.

The town also agreed to withdraw a three-day suspension issued to Warden last month and remove any reference of it from his personnel file.  The nine-page separation agreement outlining the details is “to settle any dispute regarding’s employee’s employment.”

Warden’s lawyer told the Shelburne News the suspension was unwarranted.

“There has been much talk in the press and among the public of a three-day unpaid suspension. We assert that the suspension was completely unjustified, and imposed without following the proper procedures,” Alison Bell of Langrock, Sperry & Wool said in an email to the Shelburne News.

“As part of our agreement with the Town, the suspension has been rescinded, all references to it have been expunged from Jim’s personnel record, and he has been paid for the three days. As the suspension now technically never existed, we will have no further comment about any details regarding it,” she wrote Wednesday morning.

Selectboard Chairman Gary von Stange and Town Manager Joe Colangelo both said at Tuesday evening’s Selectboard meeting that they would not comment beyond the public documents. The agreement calls for both sides not to make any negative comments about the other.

The Selectboard voted 5-0 to accept the terms of the separation agreement worked out by lawyers on behalf of the town and Warden, who has been chief for 30 years. The vote followed a 15-minute closed-door session. The board had met for 75 minutes behind closed doors last Aug. 2 about a personnel issue.

The Shelburne News reported online on Saturday that a “mutually satisfactory agreement” had been reached by Warden and the town, but it still needed to be confirmed by the Selectboard.
Bell said Warden, 78, has enjoyed 30 years of public service to Shelburne.

“Jim has served the Town and its residents faithfully, in many capacities and for 30 years, and is grateful to have had the privilege to do so. He will take the opportunity to thank many of you personally in the days ahead,” she said.

Prior to coming to Shelburne, Warden spent 10 years as police chief in St. Albans City. He started his law enforcement career in Pennsylvania, where he was chief for two police departments.

The town provided the public with copies of the separation agreement and a one-page press release following the meeting, but there appeared to be inconsistencies between the documents.  The press release read by von Stange said Warden was retiring due to medical reasons.  The longer document never mentions retirement, instead saying Warden “is resigning.”  Bell Wednesday described this as a medical retirement.

Von Stange also read that the town will pay Warden through the end of the year but the separation agreement signed by von Stange on behalf of the town at the end of the meeting Tuesday says Warden will be paid through Jan. 31.

The resignation or retirement appears to have been in the works for weeks.

Warden signed the agreement on Aug. 3 and it gave him until “on or before Aug. 4” to turn over all employer-owned equipment, including his police cruiser, service weapon, TASER, duty belt, cell phone, keys, passcodes, electronic and hard copy files, records, documents, reports, uniforms and activity logs.

Previously, the town has said Colangelo suspended Warden for three days – July 19-21 – for unspecified reasons.  Von Stange gave another version of the events in reading the official statement. “Chief Warden has been out on medical leave since July 17, 2017,” the town’s news release said.

Warden and his lawyer did not attend the meeting.  During the public comment period early in the meeting, Kathy Brooks, a local resident with 40 years’ experience in human resources, said she was troubled that Warden’s suspension appeared to have happened without consulting the Selectboard. Brooks said municipal human resources policies from 1990 are likely outdated.

She also questioned reports that newly promoted Deputy Police Chief Aaron Noble would report to the town manager and not the chief. Colangelo responded that on the town’s organizational chart, the deputy chief has a straight line to the police chief and a dotted line to the town manager.
Noble has been the interim head of the police department while Warden has been out.  Colangelo said Noble remains in that position.

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