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Hooksett councilors refuse to reverse 'no-confidence' vote in police commission

HOOKSETT - While the Hooksett Town Council declined to officially rescind its earlier vote of no-confidence in the Hooksett Police Commission due to a reluctance to encumber itself again in the debate surrounding that body, many town councilors spoke with personal confidence in the commission, arguing that that vote was made "in a different time," since which many of their concerns had been assuaged.

Supporters of the commission had been pressuring the council earlier in the year to rescind its standing vote of no confidence lest it impact the vote on a petitioned warrant article which will appear on the ballot next month which, if passed, would abolish the commission. That discussion had previously been delayed until the April 24 meeting.

“What happened in December is a different time period, and the issues … on my end were because I wanted answers on when they would be hiring a police chief,” said Chairman James Sullivan. “Those concerns have been assuaged by the result of hiring Chief Bartlett, who has been praised many times here, by myself, and we have thanked the Police Commission for doing their jobs. It is now up for the voters to decide.”

“I have been extremely impressed with the improved communication, and that was the source of nearly all of my frustration,” said Town Councilor Michael Downer, who wasn’t present for the original vote of no confidence but has found himself on both sides of the issue. “They’ve appeared before us numerous times. There’s no debating their commitment, and in that sense, I for one have spoken with members of the commission and the department, and have been very praiseful of what they’re doing.”

“The department has changed leaps and bounds,” he continued. “There’s no question. Chief Bartlett is the reason for that, and I applaud him and the members of his department.”
Councilors were reluctant to open a formal vote on the question, however, for fear of dragging themselves back into a an old and bitter debate. The vote could not be officially reconsidered without a motion from a councilor who supported the initial vote, and none were offered.

“At that point in time that vote was taken, and that was the view of the majority of the council at that point,” said Downer. “However, time has passed, and it just feels like we keep tearing off the band-aid. We keep re-engaging in this discussion, and I don’t think it’s helpful.”

“It was my hope that … we remain impartial on this matter, because it’s a petitioned article,” said Sullivan. “In all my years in Hooksett, I don’t believe that any board has taken a vote or nonvote on a warrant petitioned article.”

The agenda item was ultimately tabled until the council’s first meeting after the May 14 town election.

The Town Council issued the 4-3 vote of no confidence in the Hooksett Police Commission last September after the commission canceled a scheduled appointment with the Town Council to update them on the search for a new police chief and the implementation of a 2011 audit. Many on the council hoped that the vote would compel the commission to appear before the body. Concerns surrounding transparency, the use of nonpublic sessions, the then year-long search for a chief, and morale were also raised.

Duhaime appointed

Also at the April 24 meeting, the Town Council appointed Robert Duhaime to serve as the interim District 2 councilor, replacing John Danforth, who submitted a letter of resignation in February. Duhaime, who serves on the Hooksett Planning Board, is also running unopposed for that seat.

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