April 14. 2013 11:35PM

Goffstown suspends officer's punishment after hearing

Union Leader Correspondent

GOFFSTOWN - Police Sgt. David Rivard's punishment for alleged insubordination was suspended for six months by the board of selectmen last week. If Rivard has no other departmental infractions within that time frame, then the five-day suspension without pay he received will be dismissed.

Selectmen issued a written ruling after listening to Rivard tell his side of the story at a grievance hearing on March 28, during which his attorney, Tracy Culberson, argued that Police Chief Patrick Sullivan's decision to suspend Rivard did not comply with the department's own guidelines and was neither fair nor reasonable under the circumstances.

In addition to suspending the punishment against Rivard for six months, selectmen downgraded the offense from a Class 3 to a Class 2 violation, said Culberson. "If the Class 3 had remained, unfortunately any similar violation could have resulted in his termination," Culberson said. "It would have been a three-strikes-and-you're-out kind of thing."

Rivard's suspension was based on three write-ups he received involving Rivard and patrol officers under his command. He was twice cited by Sullivan for failing to get officers under his command out on patrol 15 minutes after the start of morning roll call at 7 a.m.

In another incident, Rivard allowed one of the patrol officers under his command to leave his route about 30 minutes early so he could congratulate a fellow Goffstown officer who was being honored at an awards banquet at St. Anselm College.

In the third incident, Rivard let one of his officers leave a route early so he could congratulate Manchester police officer Daniel Doherty, who was a guest at a radio station in Pinardville and who had recently returned to duty after he was shot seven times last March by a man he was attempting to arrest on the west side of the city.

After the third incident, Sullivan issued the Class 3 violation against Rivard, considered the most severe penalty, short of termination, that the police department can hand down.

Last month's grievance hearing was open to the public at Rivard's request.

Culberson was hoping to have the suspension overturned by selectmen.

When asked how his client felt about the selectmen's written decision, Culberson said Rivard felt "good about the fact that selectmen listened to all the evidence. I thought the process was fair. I thought they gave us a fair shake, and I know that means a lot to Dave." Culberson added that in their written ruling, selectmen "made note of Dave's professionalism." Rivard is a 22-year veteran of the Goffstown Police Department.

"He feels good that he didn't just roll over and take it," Culberson said of his client. "This information needed to come out."