LIVERMORE FALLS — Police Chief Ernest N. Steward Jr. has been suspended.
Or he has not. It depends on who you ask.
Associates of Steward said the chief was suspended at the start of the week, relieved of duty until the start of next week. They say the suspension was the result of a disagreement with Town Manager James Chaousis over how the Police Department is run.
Chaousis did not see it that way.
“I wouldn’t call it a suspension,” he said Thursday. “Chief Steward is on a special project.”
Chaousis did not elaborate on what that project might entail, though he said the chief was due back Sept. 27.
A reporter who called the police station earlier in the week was told Steward was on vacation.
Steward himself, police chief for nearly 20 years, did not return telephone messages Wednesday to clarify the nature of his week off.
A colleague said Steward has hired a lawyer to represent him in the recent turn of events.
The focus of the disagreement between the men was not known. In the past, the two have failed to see eye to eye on many matters pertaining to police work.
Last year, Steward refused to sign off on a new communications system until it was completely hooked up. The system was finally in place late in the summer. Steward signed off and then received a bill for $11,000 that should have come out of last year's budget.
Earlier in the year, Steward was disciplined for putting an opinion piece in the town report.
More recently, Chaousis has been exploring a restructuring of police shifts and the possibility of turning over police services to another agency, such as the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department.
It was not clear Wednesday where Steward stands on those matters.