DEXTER,  Maine — A planned workshop between the Dexter Town Council and the Police Department on Wednesday was canceled upon the advice of the town’s attorney.
The police department has been in turmoil since early fall, when the town’s four full-time police officers submitted a letter to municipal officials saying they had no confidence in Police Chief Jim Emerson.
The council and members of the Police Department had assembled for the workshop reportedly to discuss the matter, but the council first entered into executive session with its attorney, Matthew Tarasevich of Portland.
Chairman Roger Brawn told the audience beforehand that the executive session would be about the “legalities involving the goings-on as far as the Police Department is concerned.”
“The purpose is to understand our legal role and make sure that we are following that properly,” he added.
The council voted to enter executive session for an attorney-client consultation, which is permitted under Maine law. Councilors Andre Robichaud and David Clukey opposed the motion.
“Is it going to be about me?” Emerson asked the council. He has told the council repeatedly since October that he wants any discussions involving him to be held in public session.
Brawn replied, “No,” reiterating that it was to find out what the council’s legal responsibilities are.
The earlier no-confidence vote sparked an investigation by municipal officials in October. Emerson was provided a list of corrective actions to take, including participation in a leadership class and a mentoring program, and he was placed on 90 days’ probation.
While the investigation by Town Manager David Pearson and Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, uncovered no malfeasance, they did indicate that Emerson had “some lapses of judgment,” Pearson said earlier this year.
At the investigation’s conclusion, Pearson said he would evaluate Emerson’s progress every 30 days during the 90-day period. That probation period ended last week.
Pearson said Thursday that he told Emerson during a Jan. 18 meeting that he had accomplished the requirements spelled out in the probation action, with the exception of his attendance at a leadership class. The town couldn’t afford to send Emerson to one of those classes offered only in Texas and Florida, but he is being sent to one that will be offered soon in Maine, Pearson said. In the interim, Emerson attended a legal seminar on personnel practices as requested.
Emerson is still subject to suspension or termination if he backslides and stops doing the required practices, according to Pearson.