Jul 31, 2015 4:45 PM
As fired New Durham police chief fights to get job back, town administrator resigns
NEW DURHAM - As a fired police chief vows to get his job back, the town official who handed him his termination letter has announced his resignation.
"The morale is pretty low, and the employees are worried about their positions," said Town Administrator Jeremy Bourgeois about the status at town hall.
Bourgeois submitted a letter of resignation to the New Durham select board on Friday.
Bourgeois told NH1 News that his decision to resign was based on recent "stresses and challenges" over the past few months, although he would not comment if it was directly related to the termination of former Chief of Police Shawn Bernier.
Bernier, who was fired by a 2-1 select board vote on July 23 after serving the town for more than 20 years, is now seeking to be reinstated.
"We are challenging the dismissal by the Board of Selectmen," said attorney Michael Ramsdell of Concord, who is representing the former chief.
Ramsdell told NH1 News that Bernier's firing 'without cause' by the select board violates his contract with the town. He also believes that some of the board's decision-making processes, including the closed-door discussions and vote on the chief's employment, was a violation of state law.
A petition will be filed with Strafford County Superior Court over the next few weeks to ultimately seek Bernier's reinstatement, Ramsdell said.
Ahead of the chief's termination, New Durham select board Chairman David Bickford told NH1 News that he had concerns Bernier may have violated the town's ethics policy.
“He’s been running around with his family in the cruiser, and it’s a concern to people," Bickford said.
Bickford, who voted alongside selectman Greg Anthes to terminate Bernier, said he had filed complaints with the town against the police chief in the past.
Selectman David Swenson, who opposed Bernier's firing, called on Bickford to recuse himself from voting on Bernier's termination.
Swenson alleged the chairman's vote would be viewed as a conflict of interest due to his prior, personal complaints.
Bickford, who's son holds a 3-page criminal record and has been arrested by the police department multiple times, declined Swenson's request and voted to fire Bernier anyway.
On Friday, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office said that multiple complaint letters had been filed surrounding the chief's controversial firing by the select board.
The AG's office told NH1 News that it may take several weeks for the complaints to be reviewed in order to determine if an investigation is warranted.