DIXFIELD – Selectmen voted 3-2 Monday night to immediately reinstate Richard Pickett as police chief if he agrees to a retroactive four-week suspension without pay.

His attorney, Phil Coffin, said late Monday night that the offer is unacceptable.

“He shouldn’t have been disciplined in the first place. This is news to us, and we need to think about it,” he said. “We believe he was wrongly terminated and this is a backdoor attempt to limit the town’s liability and to correct an inappropriate and illegal decision.”

The decision on conditional reinstatement came after the board first voted 3-2 to reconsider its disciplinary action June 30 not to renew Pickett’s contract.

Both votes Monday night were identical: Selectmen James Desjardins, Norine Clarke and Brad Dyer voted yes; Chairwoman Bettina Martin and Raymond Carlton voted no.

Desjardins, one of the three selectmen who voted not to continue Pickett’s contract, made the motion to suspend Pickett without pay for four weeks, retroactive to July 1, and to reinstate him immediately. His pay would be retroactive to July 29.

Desjardins declined comment on why he changed his mind on the matter.

Martin said after the meeting that she believes Pickett doesn’t always work in the best interest of the town.

The decision to not renew Pickett’s contract was discipline for what selectmen called insubordination during the May 22 annual town meeting, at least one selectman said at the time. At that meeting, Pickett had argued to maintain a four-person police force when the majority of selectmen had recommended that the force be cut to three.

Residents agreed with Pickett and returned the funding to the municipal budget.

Since Pickett was removed from his position, Sgt. Jeff Howe has served as interim police chief. He, officers Eric Bernier and Chuck Beale, along with several reserve officers, have continued 24-hour police coverage for the town.

Pickett is a retired Maine State Police trooper and detective who has served as police chief for the town for the past decade.

Lee Bragg, of the Augusta and Portland law firm of Bernstein Shur, has represented the town in the case and was present at Monday’s special meeting. Neither Coffin nor Pickett attended Monday’s special board meeting.

Coffin, of the Portland law firm of Lambert Coffin, said he and Pickett will decide over the next several days what their next step will be.


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