Eastport council holds executive session with fired police chief, attorneys

Posted March 09, 2011, at 11:52 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — No answers were to be found at the City Council meeting Wednesday night for dozens of residents seeking reasons for the firing last week of veteran Police Chief Matt Vinson.

Vinson was terminated last Thursday, according to Town Manager Jon Southern. Citing confidentiality laws that protect Vinson and his privacy, Southern would not say at the time or at Wednesday’s council meeting what led to the firing.

More than 60 people attended the Wednesday meeting at Shead High School. After nearly two hours of regular business, the council went into executive session with its attorney, Dennis Mahar, Vinson and Vinson’s attorney, John Churchill.

More than 30 people waited in a hallway outside the meeting room during the executive session.

At 9 p.m., the executive session ended and Churchill read a statement that said, “Matt Vinson has resigned effective immediately.”

During the earlier public meeting, councilors would not comment on the issue except to say that they have no authority, by city charter, to hire or fire. That is left solely to the city manager.

The council did provide a number of residents the opportunity express their views on Vinson’s termination.

Every one of the dozen people that spoke expressed their satisfaction with Vinson’s job performance and their support of him now. Dean Pike said Vinson had been very helpful to local businesses and the Boat School. Others called Vinson “an exemplary officer,” “kind and courteous” and “a pleasure to work with.”

Several people called his firing “disheartening,” while others threatened to begin a recall effort for the entire council and attempt to have Southern dismissed.

Before the meeting began, Vinson said he could not offer any comments based on his attorney’s advice.

But Southern attempted to defend his actions. He said he was hired a year ago “to clean up this city” and that he had done “a great job so far.” Because he could not make public the reason for firing Vinson, Southern asked the residents to “have faith in me.” His comments elicited laughter and boos from some audience members.

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