SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 1, 2013

Now you tell me

PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt says he was not aware of fire Chief Steve Pasdon’s objections to the decision to take the police and fire chief out of Civil Service.

“I’m moving forward,” Bettencourt added, noting that the change is a done deal.

Pasdon recently told the News that he withheld his opinion to avoid a political argument, but he feels that some future mayor, lacking Bettencourt’s ethical standards, could politicize the office, using a chief’s desire to have his contract renewed for leverage.

Under Civil Service, removing employees can be more difficult, which might give a chief increased independence, he suggested. Pasdon remains under Civil Service, despite the passage of a home-rule petition on Beacon Hill taking future Peabody chiefs out of the system.

The mayor pointed out that the change was done with near-unanimous support from the City Council and the Legislature.

“It’s the right thing for the city,” he said.

Notwithstanding some instances of corruption in the distant past, he maintained that voters should have confidence in their ability to choose good leaders.

“They shouldn’t be fearful of what a potential mayor in the future will do.”

Champagne watch

Police Chief Robert Champagne, meanwhile, had announced his plan to retire at the end of May. Then, Bettencourt’s petition to take the selection of a new chief out of Civil Service passed. To facilitate a smooth transition to the next chief and give the mayor more time for the selection process, Champagne agreed to stay on and has remained up until now.

But retirement beckons. Bettencourt expects Champagne will leave before the end of August.

Choose one

Barry Osborne is one of three ward councilors who might be able to take it a little easier this year — along with Bob Driscoll and Barry Sinewitz — as he has no opponent in the November election.

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