By Katina Caraganis, kcaraganis@sentinelandenterpri se.com
Posted: 06/23/2013 06:38:16 AM EDT
LUNENBURG -- Two months after police Sgt. Jason Poitras was fired by Town Manager Kerry Speidel, she and other officials remain tightlipped about why, and one selectmen said residents should not be quick to rush to judgment about what happened.
Selectman Dave Matthews, who chaired the board when the termination was handed down, says there are a lot of false rumors circulating about the case and residents should not speculate on what may have happened.
"A lot of the information out there right now is incorrect," he said. "I guess to some extent I would be curious about this, but I don't think in the long haul it's going to be that big of a deal. This could take weeks or months. It's a very frustrating process."
Speidel said because Poitras -- former president of the town's police union -- has filed for arbitration, she cannot comment on the specifics of the case.
Matthews said it's unclear what Poitras is seeking from his arbitration claim, but he explained it would be reasonable to assume he wants to be reinstated to the force and wants to collect back wages.
Speidel said she has been in constant communication with the town's labor counsel, who has advised her not to release any more information on the matter.
"He has filed for arbitration and that will take about six months or so to go through," Speidel said Friday, noting that arbitration is similar to a lawsuit and until an outcome is reached, details of what happens cannot be released.
"I have a duty to the town of Lunenburg, and we are involved in an arbitration matter and I will not jeopardize the town or the town's position."
Speidel would neither say what prompted the termination, nor whether it was because of something that occurred on the job or off duty.
A former Leominster police officer is also asking to be reinstated after he was fired by his chief for using a racial slur at a baseball game. Both the Leominster police chief and the mayor have been vocal about the reasons for the firing.
Speidel said she is aware of the situation in Leominster but did not know enough to compare the circumstances to the Lunenburg case.
In addition to his police duties, Poitras was teaching a criminal-justice class at the Devens campus of Mount Wachusett Community College.
Joyce Cormier, a spokeswoman for the college, said Poitras is no longer employed by the college, but did not provide details, including how long he worked there, when he stopped working and the reasons for his not being there anymore.
Some residents argue that it's the public's right to know the circumstances surrounding Poitras' dismissal, while others say it's been handled appropriately.
Local businessman Bob Elder says it's a sticky situation for the town.