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State Orders New Top Cop Be Appointed In Chicopee

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB) — Chicopee Police Chief Thomas Charette could lose his permanent position on July 1.

The state’s Civil Service Commission has ruled that former Mayor Michael Bissonnette was not fair in the promotion process when he promoted Charette in 2013, over a candidate with more seniority and experience.

That man, Deputy Chief William Jebb, actually scored higher that Charette with an assessment center retained by the city to review candidates for the position, as well as an interview panel.

Bissonnette had appointing authority at the time, following the retirement of former Chief John Ferraro.

According to testimony from Ferraro, he recommended Jebb to Bissonnette for the temporary position, but following some interviews, Bissonnette reportedly did not accept that recommendation and appointed Charette to the temporary post.

As the process to find a permanent chief continued, the commission’s report says that Bissonnette testified that he entered into an agreement with an assessment center to vet candidates.

The assessment center returned their results and the three top candidates were identified. Jebb received a score of 87, Charette had a score of 84, and Captain Steven Muise received an 83.

An interview committee was then assembled, and following interviews, Jebb received the highest score from the panel, and Charette came in second.

However, according to the report, Bissonnette was reportedly concerned that Jebb was involved in the release of some of his criminal information during his 2005 campaign for Mayor.

Scott Sczcebak, the city’s Human Resources Director, testified to the commission that Bissonnette informed him that he intended to appoint Charette as permanent chief and bypass Jebb.

Sczcebak noted that he was then asked by Bissonnette to write a “bypass letter”, but Bissonnette failed to give reasons for the bypass.

“Unsure of what to write in the bypass letter, Mr. Sczcebak referred to prior bypass
letters that focused on positive reasons of the selected candidate. When shown the
bypass letter at the full hearing, Mr. Sczebak stated that the first half of the letter
appears to be what he wrote, but the remainder of the letter was not written by him,” the commission’s report explains.

Charette was then appointed permanent chief on June 10, 2013, and Jebb testified that he was not informed that he was being bypassed as of that date.

Jebb then appealed the appointment to the commission, who issued their ruling Thursday.

The civil service commission says that ultimately, Bissonette “was required to engage in a decision-making process that was fair and impartial and free of favoritism and personal or political bias.”

“Ultimately, [Bissonnette] failed to do so,” the commission adds.

Jebb’s attorney, Thomas Kenefick, immediately appealed the decision last July.

“This was a calculated decision by Bissonnette that was designed not to choose the candidate by merit,” Kenefick said on behalf of Jebb.

Civil Service Chairman Chris Bowman wrote in his report that the ordeal was “one of the more egregious and overt examples of political and personal bias I have seen during my tenure.”

“He bore an animus towards him and he was going to get him back in whatever way he could-and the best way he could was to do what he did to him and his family and the City of Chicopee,” Kenfick said.

The commission has granted Jebb’s appeal, and has ordered that as of July 1, 2014, Charette’s promotion as “permanent Police Chief shall be vacated.”

Charette will continue as a “temporary police chief”, the commission explains, adding that the city’s Human Resources Department, or the city, “shall revive the Certification initially used to make this promotion in June 2013,” according to the ruling.

Bissonnette has taken to his Facebook page to express his concerns regarding this incident. He wrote that this was a “disappointing decision,” and that he has “no personal or political bias about Bill Jebb.” But went on to defend his decision by saying, “I believe that his political actions  in 2005 were part of the ongoing pattern of conduct that lead me to believe that a change in leadership from the Ferraro ways was in the best interests of both the city and the overwhelming number of Chicopee officers who protect and serve us every single day.”

Now, Mayor Richard Kos will make a “promotional appointment in compliance with all applicable civil service law and rules that is consistent with basic merit principles.”

The state’s Human Resource Division will revive the certification initially used to make the promotion last year

The report also acknowledges Chief Charette’s impressive career and dedicated service, including his heroic efforts during the April 2011 downtown Chicopee shootout.

Neither Mayor Kos nor Chief Charette responded to requests for comment Thursday.

You can CLICK HERE to view the full 27-page ruling.

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WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.
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