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Town Meeting sends message to Select Board: Bring back Sgt. Brennan

by | May 7, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Town Meeting

Mike Shepard, shown during Monday’s Town Meeting, was among the residents speaking out in favor of the article to reinstate Tim Brennan on Tuesday. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Supporters of fired Hopkinton Police Sgt. Tim Brennan got a major moral victory Tuesday at the Hopkinton Middle School auditorium, as Special Town Meeting overwhelmingly supported a citizens’ petition to direct the Select Board to reappoint Brennan.

The vote was 220-99, with a simple majority required for passage.

Resident Karen Crum presented on behalf of the Brennan supporters and acknowledged that “this motion is symbolic,” because Town Meeting is not the appointing authority for police officers.

“But what we do have the ability to do is send a clear message about what we believe is the right thing to do and what we want them to do,” Crum said. “It’s up to them to decide whether they’re going to respect our wishes or not.”

Brennan was fired via a 4-1 vote for not reporting a woman’s accusation that she was sexually assaulted by another HPD officer, John “Jay” Porter, when she was a student at Hopkinton High School. At a Loudermill hearing in January, Brennan explained that he was trying to protect the alleged victim, who apparently was not ready to pursue legal action. His supporters say his desire to be sensitive to the woman’s trauma — along with issues with HPD upper management and department policies — justify his return to the force.

Said Crum: “This vote is about getting a man who has served his town faithfully back on the street.”

Added resident Gayle Ober: “There is so much wrong with the decision to fire Tim Brennan. Now this town has a chance to ask the Select Board to right their wrong. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Mike Shepard, a former Select Board member, said he believes the current board made the wrong decision, and “to put him and his family through this is the ultimate travesty.”

Resident Timothy Boivin said he knew the alleged victim. He called the Select Board’s decision to fire Brennan and administrators’ overall handling of the matter “morally reprehensible, and the town should be ashamed.”

“By firing Sgt. Brennan, this board has re-traumatized this woman constantly — over and over and over again,” Boivin said.

Brennan has appealed the decision, and some residents expressed concern that the town could face financial penalties.

Paula Garland asked the Select Board to “impose a more reasonable discipline so that we, the residents of Hopkinton, won’t be exposed to as much liability.”

While most spoke in favor of the article, there were a few residents who voiced support for the Select Board’s decision and noted that the board was privy to more information that can’t be shared with the public.

Resident Rachel Klein, who said she previously prosecuted domestic violence and sexual assault cases, said approving the article was a precedent the town should not set.

“Reporting policies exist in law enforcement not just to protect individual community members. They exist to protect commutes as a whole, and to protect the functioning of departments,” she said. “And when we allow individual law enforcement officers to deviate from these highest standards, we risk undermining both community safety and the rule of law.”

Amy Groves, chair of the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee, said that as a child in Indiana, she was raped repeatedly by an older adult family member, starting when she was 12 years old. She asked her neighbors to be careful about assuming what a rape survivor wants.

“I don’t presume to tell another rape survivor what her experience was or how she should feel about it, because everybody is different,” Groves said. “But in my case, my life would have been immeasurable better, it would have been changed forever, if somebody had come forward and spoken on my behalf. If we had had mandatory reporting laws, and if my family members hadn’t turned their eyes away, if the doctors hadn’t looked down at the floor in embarrassment and said nothing, my life would have been different. So while I don’t pretend that I know what somebody else’s life is like, I want to urge people to please not assume that rape survivors always want their stories to be kept secret, and that children can handle this kind of thing. We need champions. We need adults to be adults.”

Resident Beth Malloy said the vocal group of Brennan supporters don’t speak for the whole town.

“There’s a lot of people saying ‘we.’ ‘We want this.’ Well, there’s a lot of ‘we’ in the town that aren’t here tonight that agree with the Select Board, that agree with our police chief,” Malloy said.

Added Malloy: “Good men make bad mistakes. And sometimes when they make big errors, they pay for them in the worst way. People make mistakes. He made a mistake. He should have reported it, and none of this would have been happening.”

Voters reject plan for parking lot

Following the Brennan vote, which was the last article on the Special Town Meeting warrant, Annual Town Meeting resumed. An item that drew a good bit of discussion was Article 33, a proposal to acquire property abutting Town Hall to use as a parking lots. Residents pointed out that there was confusion regarding who would own the property and what exactly the plan was to make the best use of it. Town Meeting in past years had voted down a plan to acquire parking at the location. It again failed to gain support Tuesday.

Another article drawing discussion was Article 34, funding for toxic chemical testing. The Sustainable Green Committee recommended no action, saying it had yet to finalize a plan. Some residents wanted to push forward anyhow and bumped the funding from $10,000 to $50,000 (from free cash). However, the motion failed. Town officials noted they are working on a plan that would allow them to allocate funds from a different source and hope to present something in a couple of months.

Town Meeting was halted shortly after 11:30 p.m. and will resume Wednesday at 7 p.m., with 15 articles left to be addressed.

Below are the results from all the articles.

ANNUAL TOWN MEETING ARTICLES/RESULTS

Article 1: Acceptance of town reports
Approved, 304-23

Article 2: Supplemental appropriations and transfers
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 3: Unpaid bills from prior fiscal years
Approved via voice vote (four-fifths majority required)

Article 4: Rescind authorized but unissued debt
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 5: Excess bond premium
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 6: Set the salary of elected officials
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 7: Fiscal year 2025 operating budget
Approved, 280-70 (simple majority required)

Article 8: FY 2025 revolving funds spending limits
Approved by voice vote, (simple majority required)

Article 9: PEG access and cable-related funding
Amendment to increase HCAM funding with additional $50,000 from the town’s free cash approved, 233-102 (simple majority required)
Main motion approved, 236-70 (simple majority required)

Article 10: Chapter 90 highway funds
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 11: Transfer to Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 12: Transfer to the general stabilization fund
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 13: Transfer to the Capital Expense Stabilization Fund
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 14: Transfer to the School Special Education Reserve Fund
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 15: Opioids funds appropriation
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 16: Pay-as-you-go capital expenses
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 17: Digitization of all town records
Approved, 297-46 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 18: District-wide HVAC replacement
Vote to take no action approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 19: Hopkins Elementary School addition and renovation
Approved, 242-102 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 20: Ash Street and Fenton Street drainage improvement
Approved, 209-46 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 21: Roadway and sidewalk improvements, DiCarlo Road, Peppercorn Road, Barbara Road
Failed, 151-82 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 22: Granite Street culvert replacement
Approved, 183-42 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 23: Town-wide water main flushing program
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 24: Howe Street water treatment plant-ozone treatment
Approved, 239-42 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 25: Grove Street water tank design
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 26: East Main Street water main replacement
Approved, 235-34 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 27: Water Department vehicle replacement
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 28: Water Department vehicle replacement
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 29: Water Department vehicle replacement
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 30: Sewer Department vehicle replacement
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 31: Wastewater treatment plant membrane
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 32: Sewer system evaluation, Hayden Rowe pump station
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 33: Municipal parking
Motions 1-2, failed 89-181 (two-thirds majority required)
Motion 3, failed via voice vote (two-thirds majority required)

Article 34: Toxic chemicals testing
Amendment to increase spending from $10,000 to $50,000 from free cash approved, 108-93 (simple majority required)
Main motion failed, 54-107 (simple majority required)

Article 35: Home rule petition-senior tax exemptions, school building projects

Article 36: Adopt the specialized energy code

Article 37: Community preservation funds

Article 38: Community preservation recommendations

Article 39: MBTA Communities zoning bylaw

Article 40: Zoning map change, 1 Colonial Avenue, 81 Hayden Rowe, 83 Hayden Rowe

Article 41: Amend noncriminal disposition bylaw

Article 42: General bylaw amendment-membership requirements for certain committees

Article 43: General bylaw amendment-admission to town meeting hall

Article 44: General bylaw amendment-leash law

Article 45: Accept gift of land, Whisper Ridge subdivision
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 46: Accept gift of land, Connelly Farm subdivision
Approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (simple majority required)

Article 47: Accept gift of land, Elmwood III subdivision

Article 48: Easement, Lake Maspenock dam operations and maintenance

Article 49: Property disposition, 0 Duffield Road and 0 Beach Street

Article 50: Transfer care, custody and control of Echo Trail parcels
Vote to take no action approved via consent agenda, 292-39 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 51: Amend town charter-housekeeping

Article 52: Establish Government Study Committee

SPECIAL TOWN MEETING ARTICLES/RESULTS

Article 1: Public works vehicle replacement
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 2: Main Street Fire Station HVAC upgrade
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 3: Woodville Fire Station repairs
Approved via voice vote (simple majority required)

Article 4: Land disposition-0 Hayward Street
Approved, 282-11 (two-thirds majority required)

Article 5: Appoint Sgt. Timothy Brennan
Approved, 220-99 (simple majority required)

1 Comment

  1. Ruth

    So we can pick what laws we want to?A person’s decision to not report something is better than a law requiring it. Good to know. People in several professions are mandated to report abuse of any kind.

    Reply

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