Veteran Shelburne Police chief's future could be decided soon

SHELBURNE — Weeks after a three-day suspension, longtime Shelburne Police Chief James Warden remains absent from the department he's led for 30 years and his future appears on the line.

Town fficials are tight-lipped about Warden's future, but an agenda item on Tuesday's Selectboard meeting calls for an executive session to discuss "Personnel Related to Possible Separation Agreement with a Town Employee."

Town Manager Joe Colangelo declined on Monday to comment on Warden's suspension, saying it's a personnel matter. He removed Warden from his job for three days, starting July 19 running through the 21, according to the chief and the chair of the Selectboard.

The police chief sent a memo July 18, entitled "My Suspension" to all local police department employees regarding his time away from the department. The two-sentence document, which VTDigger obtained through a public records request, informed workers that Colangelo suspended Warden and that during his absence Deputy Chief Aaron Noble would oversee the force.

In the memo, Warden did not say why Colangelo suspended him.

Warden, 78, did not return after the suspension. According to employee records, he used 40 hours of sick time in the last pay period. On July 26, Colangelo sent out a memo stating that Deputy Chief Noble is the Acting Police Chief "until further notice."

Attempts to reach Warden have been unsuccessful.

On Wednesday afternoon the town Selectboard held a special meeting at Shelburne's Town offices. The agenda item listed concerned an executive session regarding a discussion on a personnel matter. Officials refused to identify the town employee who was the subject of the meeting.

The unofficial minutes from the meeting posted on the town's web site noted the private talk lasted over an hour, and that the board voted 4 to 0 to also invite Colangelo and the town attorney to join in the closed-door session.

The board decided during the meeting to enter into executive session, citing a Vermont state statute, noted "premature general knowledge would put the board at a disadvantage."

Colangelo and Selectboard Chairman Gary von Stange declined to talk about the subject of the executive session.

"Out of respect for all participants, I'm going to reserve comment for now," said von Stange after the meeting, who pointed out he is hopeful town officials can talk about Warden and his future with the department next week. "It was the town manager's decision (to suspend Warden)."

According to von Stange, Shelburne's charter spells out that the police department answers to the town manager.

Warden's name and telephone extension are still posted on Shelburne's web site. All messages to the chief are sent to an automated message on his phone. A Shelburne emergency services' dispatcher said on Monday that he was unaware where Warden is and when he might return to the department.


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