SKOWHEGAN — When Skowhegan police Chief Donald Bolduc announced he was resigning effective April 9 , he said he was looking forward to returning home to his family in Millinocket. But Bolduc, 52, is going home earlier than he had planned.
In a scheduled executive session Monday, selectmen, in a consensus majority, decided to let Bolduc go immediately. He told the town about his resignation in a letter to the town manager on Friday.
Bolduc was informed of the selectmen’s closed-door decision Tuesday afternoon, and he turned in his badge and his gun at 4 p.m. that day.
“It came as a surprise, but it’s giving me an opportunity to go home earlier,” he said Wednesday morning. “I feel bad for the Police Department because it would have been an easier transition if they were given 30 days and I could have helped with that. But for some reason they don’t want to do that and I don’t know why, and I don’t know why they decided to do what they did. I don’t know what I’ve done to make them do this and if it’s personal.
“I don’t know what to say. I thought I was leaving on a good note,” he added.
The Skowhegan Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 Wednesday night to accept Bolduc’s resignation, making it official. The original motion was to accept the resignation effective April 9, according to the agenda, but it was changed to reflect the decision to let Bolduc go immediately.
Selectwoman Darla Pickett was the lone dissenter.
The board then voted unanimously to appoint Sgt. Joel Cummings as interim police chief, also effective immediately.
“I would like to thank Officer Cummings for taking on that duty,” Board Chairman Donald Skillings said.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Town Manager Christine Almand said she met with Bolduc on Tuesday afternoon to give him the news.
“I did inform the chief that the majority of the board had decided that they would let him go as of yesterday,” Almand said.
Almand said it is often the case with management positions that someone is let go soon after they resign.
“Some places they’ll just walk you out and send you your stuff later,” she said. “It’s customary at times for people to be removed from management positions after they tender their resignation.”
Almand said there was no formal vote of the board Monday night, just a majority consensus of the five-member panel during executive session to discuss the personnel matter. She would not say which members of the board comprised the majority.
Almand said the board’s consensus came Monday afternoon, before a Morning Sentinel story was published online about Bolduc’s resignation and his frustration about low pay for patrol officers in Skowhegan. Bolduc said the department recently lost three officers, including a detective sergeant, to other agencies that pay more money. He said starting pay for an entry-level patrol officer in Skowhegan is $16.59 per hour for the first two years, or about $2.50 to $4 per hour less than other departments that are all competing to fill rosters.
Bolduc said he could not say much more than that because labor contracts between the patrolman’s union and the town are ongoing and he would not want to be accused of “negotiating in public” and upsetting the bargaining process.
Bolduc said he looked forward to moving back home with his wife and son, who is recovering from cancer treatments.
Skillings said Wednesday he could not discuss Bolduc’s departure from the Police Department because it is a personnel matter discussed in a legal executive session and protected from public scrutiny under Maine’s Freedom of Access law. He said Bolduc’s departure prior to the announced resignation date did not amount to a job termination.
“I wish him and his family the very best,” Skillings said. “I know he’s had a difficult time period with regards to his son’s health. I absolutely wish him, his wife and his family the very best in the future and pray for his son’s good health and his whole family’s good health.”
Meanwhile, Bolduc has accepted a position with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy. He said his first job in law enforcement was that of a corrections officer at the Penobscot County Jail in 1986. He also has been a commissioned deputy in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties since 1993.
He said his early departure from Skowhegan might allow him to fill the position in Penobscot County a little earlier than planned.
“They accepted my resignation and said I was no longer needed as of 4 p.m. yesterday,” Bolduc said Wednesday. “That’s going to benefit myself, my family and the Sheriff’s Department because the position I am filling for them has been open since this past October, so the sooner I start for them, the better. My glass is always half full, and when one door closes another one opens.”
Doug Harlow — 612-2367