BETHEL – Selectmen unanimously reprimanded Town Manager Scott Cole this week for “distasteful, hurtful” remarks about townspeople made last March.

Selectmen advised Cole to use “greater restraint and keener judgment” in his interactions with people.

In a letter to Cole Tuesday, Selectmen Don Bennett, Reggie Brown, Jack Cross and Harry Dresser Jr. said they had reached a decision concerning Cole’s alleged actions as reported in the May 27 issue of The Bethel Citizen.

The story by editor/writer Michael Daniels, elaborates on a secretly-recorded conversation between Cole and a Bethel couple in the town manager’s office in late March. Cole was unaware his comments were being taped.

The reprimand letter states that in that episode, Cole “used inflammatory rhetoric in describing a group of local students who had reportedly harassed the daughter of Bill and Karen Hopkins, who sought your help in ending the alleged harassment.

“While the manner in which the information surrounding this episode was collected and distributed was repugnant to us all, that doesn’t diminish the fact that you were unprofessional and vulgar in your characterizations of others during the conversation with the Hopkinses. Those remarks were unnecessary and hurtful to many people.”

Additionally, selectmen referred to another incident from the taping, saying Cole, “also used a crude metaphor in describing the actions of Darren Tripp and (officer) Phil Taylor on the day of the armed robbery in Bethel in December.”

Cole fired Tripp, Bethel’s police chief, in February for failure to maintain contact with the Oxford County radio dispatch center, and failure to respond from inside the police station for 12 minutes on Dec. 2 despite repeated attempts by dispatchers using four separate methods to alert him about an armed robbery that had just occurred in Bethel.

“The work of local government should be to support the efforts of the citizens of the community; that must also be the mission of those who work in support of local government.

“As the leader of the town’s employees, you should be setting the example for those in your employ. Clearly, the behavior reported in The Bethel Citizen article was irresponsible, and is not behavior that any in the Town would want to represent them,” the letter stated.

In casting judgment, the board added, “We found your remarks distasteful, hurtful, and not in keeping with the manner in which we’d like to see the public treated by Town employees.

“While you are employed by the Town of Bethel, you are to exercise greater restraint and keener judgment in your interactions with people on Town matters than is reflected in these actions.

“It is our fondest hope that the Town will be a peaceful, constructive place; your discretion will help considerably, and is required. Further instances of behavior demonstrating similarly poor judgment could result in disciplinary action, including suspension or termination.”

Dresser said the letter only constituted their response to recent allegations made against Cole.

“More common annual discussion about professional performance and development is under way with Mr. Cole, and is confidential,” Dresser stated in an e-mail Tuesday evening.

Selectmen concluded their reprimand letter, telling Cole that there is plenty of good work to be done in Bethel.

“We’re anxious to get down to that good work with you. After a long, hard spring, we’ll look forward to sharing with you a renewed focus on the work we can do that people expect and appreciate.”