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Hinsdale Residents Seek Answers In Police Chief Saga; Daniels Says She's Been Fired

Jim Levulis

Residents in the small western Massachusetts town of Hinsdale continue to show resentment toward the Select Board as they wait for closure in an ongoing saga over their police chief.

“When do we get to vote to get you the hell out of here?” a resident asked the Select Board at the end of the Wednesday’s meeting.

It was answered by a chorus of applause and resident Dave Kokindo as he said “Very soon.”

“And with that, I’m going to make a motion to adjourn,” said Select Chair Bonnie Connor.

That sentiment has become a consistent theme since the Select Board placed then-Police Chief Nancy Daniels on paid administrative leave in November. Blaming an ankle injury and a hysterectomy, Daniels has failed to complete the state academy training required to serve as a full-time officer in the commonwealth. A 13-year veteran of the force, Daniels was hired as chief in January 2013 and granted a 270-day wavier to serve without the training. It has since expired, and the state’s Municipal Police Training Committee has denied a request for an additional waiver. The three-member Select Board held an executive session regarding Daniels' status on Jan. 27.

“They took a vote,” Daniels said. “Billy Goddard and Chairwoman Conner opted to fire me.”

Daniels says she is working with her lawyer on a lawsuit. At Wednesday’s meeting, resident and former Select Chair Dave Kokindo asked the board if Daniels was still a town employee. Selectman Bill Goddard and Select Chair Bonnie Conner, both of whom took office in May, answered.

“Could you tell us what the status of Nancy Daniels is right now?” asked Kokindo.  

“It’s under executive session,” answered Conner.  

“Is she an employee or not?” asked Kokindo.

“It’s under executive session,” answered Conner.  

“If she wishes to disclose that, that’s her personal [right],” said Goddard.

At a Jan. 15  Select Board meeting, which was moved to the school gym to accommodate the more than 100 people who showed up from a town of nearly 2,000, the board hired a temporary police chief by a 2-1 vote. Charles Bassett, a former Pittsfield police officer, has said he is not looking to take anybody’s job and will only be in the position for a few months. Daniels says Bruce Marshall, who’s been a Selectman for 36 years, has had her back throughout all of it.

“The way that the two Select Board members went about doing what they did with putting an interim chief in was just ridiculous,” Daniels said. “Very unfair on my part because I did have part-time powers and I could have been doing the same exact thing that this chief is doing right now.”

Officer Rodney Maloney, the department’s senior officer, has worked with Daniels since 2003.

“To put it mildly, it’s to say that the chief [Daniels] got a raw deal,” Maloney said. “She really did.”

Conner maintains the only reason some townspeople don’t support her is because of the decision regarding Daniels and refutes claims of a personal vendetta. In early January, the town’s five part-time officers presented a letter to the Select Board asking them to reinstate Daniels as chief. In the meantime, Maloney says the officers respect Chief Bassett and things are running smoothly.

“The only side I’m taking is chief Daniels’,” Maloney said. “I always have her back, always. All the rest of the officers have the chief’s [Daniels’] back. We are a united front.”

A special town meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19. More than 300 residents have asked for a recall of elected officials. Meanwhile, the town is considering the feasibility of a town manager. Here’s Maloney.

“I don’t think things are going to quiet down for awhile,” Maloney said. “We hope it does, but I don’t think it will because there are a lot of people very upset. At the end of the meeting you heard one resident ask when is the chair [Conner] going to be out of here. I hate to say, but I think that’s the feeling of a lot of people in town. That they want her gone.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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