Sep 29, 2015 5:41 PM
PORTSMOUTH - Embattled Portsmouth police chief Stephen DuBois will be resigning from the department in March 2016, according to a separation agreement he signed Monday.
DuBois' departure comes as he faces a federal lawsuit filed by John Connors, a retired 42-year Portsmouth officer who accuses DuBois of placing him under a permanent gag order.
Connors, citing his right to free speech, spoke to a local newspaper reporter last year about a controversial estate case involving his colleague, Sgt. Aaron Goodwin. After the interview was published, Connors said he was reprimanded and told he had violated the department's media policies.
The case Connors spoke out about involved the estate of Geraldine Webber, an elderly Shaw Road resident who signed a $2.7 million estate will in Goodwin's name.
In June, an investigation task group determined that Goodwin violated the Portsmouth Police Department's ethics policy by not rejecting Webber's estate and will.
And in late August, a judge also ruled that Goodwin exhibited 'undue influence' on Webber to change her will his favor.
According to the Robert's Report released in June, Chief DuBois, as part of the commanding staff, "failed to recognize ramifications of the bequest and the relationship between Mrs. Webber and Sgt. Goodwin and failed to take appropriate action."
Less than 4 months following the release of that report, the city's police commission announced they had accepted DuBois' resignation in an agreement dated Monday, Sept. 28.
“It’s another disgusting turn in this long, sordid chapter," said Joe Onosko, who lives across from the late Webber's home.
Onosko, who said he wants to run for a seat on the police commission because he is so fed up with their choice of action, was disappointed that the public did not have a chance to comment on DuBois' deal with the police commission.
“They suspended rules," he said. "There was no chance for the public to comment on the contract.”
Under the deal, the chief will keep his pay and benefits and leave his position voluntarily on March 28, 2016.
But it’s come under scrutiny by at least one city leader for a section that states the commission can’t discuss details of the chief’s resignation with future employers.
“Not to say anything about the police chief forever is wrong," said Asst. Mayor Jim Splaine, who thinks the chief's resignation should be immediate. "We should say thank you very much for your service, and we respect you, but we need to find another police chief and it’s got to be now.”
Splaine said he also thinks "two or three" other commanding officers should step down.
“I don’t think it’s going to stop with the chief," he said. "Moving on, I think a couple of other leaders in the police department need to take a look at their tenure, too. And I think we’ll get to that in the next few months.”
Jane Zill, a neighbor of the Webber home, attended the police commission meeting on Monday night.
She said after she heard of DuBois' resignation and couldn't comment on his separation agreement, she was upset.
“I think it’s shocking and phenomenal," Zill said. "I think it’s a very sad day for the city of Portsmouth.”
Zill, who believes Webber was mentally-weakened when she signed the will in Goodwin's name, said she thinks this is not what the chief deserves.
“There were so many eyes on it, I didn’t think it was possible for Geraldine Webber to actually be exploited.”
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