After 12 years with the town of Hinesburg, I was excited about my retirement as police chief. Despite 25 years with the California Highway Patrol and 23 years with the Air National Guard, this was to be my first actual “don’t need to work” retirement.
When I announced my retirement last January, I stated publicly that I wanted to be part of the process to find my replacement. Leaving the department fully staffed with a new building, I was enthusiastic about helping to move it into the next phase. However, at the conclusion of the process, I walked away feeling insulted and disrespected by the town administrator and the chairman of the selectboard. This letter is not about the person selected as chief. It is entirely about the lack of communication with me during the process.
When I made the request to participate in the selection process, I was never advised of anything different. It was not until I went to the town administrator’s office a few weeks later that I found there had already been two meetings of the hiring committee and they approved the employment advertisement and job description. The job description was from Newport Police without one person from the committee asking what I did as chief in Hinesburg. I restated that I wanted to be part of the process and was not told anything different.
After the application deadline, I again contacted the town administrator, who showed me the list of candidates, four of which I knew. I was allowed the opportunity to comment on the four candidates I knew. I was only shown the list and given no other information such as resumes or cover letters.
After submitting my comments, that was the last I heard until I found out that interviews were scheduled for that evening. When I went to the town administrator’s office, I asked why no one had contacted me regarding any suggested questions for the candidates. Again, no one from the committee had asked me any questions on what I did as the Hinesburg police chief.
After the final selection of two candidates, I contacted the town administrator and it was during this meeting that I was told that it is usual practice to not include the incumbent in the selection process. She stated that they wanted to ensure a fair and unbiased process. I was confused on how a best friend of one of the candidates could be on the committees and that is not bias. After what I considered a disappointing meeting, I contacted the selectboard chair and again expressed my concerns. It was also at that time that I found out that my recommendations on the four candidates had been completely disregarded and again, not one person contacted me to discuss the issue.
When I retired, I did not want anything from the town. I later changed my mind and what I wanted was an apology. The selectboard chair had acknowledged before that there was a lack of communication with me and I wanted a public acknowledgment of that and my minimal part of the selection of my replacement. I was informed that it was the decision of the selectboard that nothing was done wrong and that any lack of input was my perception. I did not expect to choose my replacement, but I did not expect to be shut out of the process.
There were so many opportunities in this process for the town administrator or selectboard chair to tell me my opinion would not be considered in this process or that it would not be appropriate for me to share my job experience and knowledge in the selection of the new chief. Instead, I felt shut out and disrespected and this has tainted the wonderful memory of serving the good people of Hinesburg.
Hinesburg Selectboard chair responds
The Citizen reached out to Hinesburg Selectboard Chair Phil Pouech for comment Wednesday regarding the opinion piece above by former Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss. Pouech said he and other town officials were aware that a letter from Koss about the police chief search process might appear in The Citizen.
“We knew (Koss) had issues (with the process) and we’ve had good discussions about it with the selectboard, the town administrator and the selection committee,” Pouech said. “They all thought the process was done very well and the decisions that were made were made in full agreement.
“We felt good about the process,” he added. “Very good. His feelings are his feelings. He let us know who he thought the chief should be before the process began. We tried to respect him and still do respect him, but for some reason he was unhappy with the process and our decision.”