EASTPORT, Maine — Veteran police Chief Matthew Vinson was fired Thursday, but citing Maine’s confidentiality laws regarding personnel matters, city officials are not saying why.
Town Manager Jon Southern confirmed Saturday that Vinson was no longer police chief.
“Unfortunately, in a situation like this, because of laws that protect his privacy, the city is not able to explain itself,” Southern said. He added that Vinson’s termination had the full support of the City Council, legal counsel and the rest of the police department.
Vinson could not be reached for comment Friday. He was hired as an Easport police officer in 1995 and was promoted to chief in 2001.
Council Chairman Robert Peacock would not comment on the firing, saying only that all employees work for Southern and that Southern has the right to hire and fire.
Southern said he will be meeting with the town’s attorney before the Wednesday, March 9, City Council meeting and may release additional information then.
In the meantime, Southern asked that community members not heed a number of false, harmful rumors.
“Please be mindful,” he said, “that this is difficult for everyone involved, including Matt Vinson. Please respect the privacy of Matt Vinson and his family.”
Meanwhile, he said, Officer Frank Gardner has been appointed interim chief and the position will be advertised. Southern said it will become a salaried position.
“It was one of the last, if not the last, hourly police chief positions in the country,” he said.
Southern promised many changes in the coming months at the Eastport Police Department, including greater fiscal accountability, the chief’s presence at council meetings, more officer training, a shift to a community policing philosophy, and community forums on police activities. He praised the current roster of police officers, calling them “an incredible group.”
“I am very positive that the community will see the new policing style and response and they will be happy,” Southern said. “We will now be focusing on what the department needs to move forward. This was a decision made for the best interests of the city as a whole. Sometimes change is not easy. It can be painful. But there has been the need for change for some time.”