HomeNews“Bring Brennan Back,” says Town Meeting to Select Board

“Bring Brennan Back,” says Town Meeting to Select Board

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Tuesday night saw another marathon Town Meeting session, beginning with a Special Town Meeting that had an abbreviated agenda. Of note were articles that authorized the town to spend money replacing the HVAC system at Fire Station 1 and to commence the engineering plan to make necessary repairs to Fire Station 2 in Woodville. Both measures passed the body by voice vote. 

Later, Article 5 was presented, a citizen’s petition instructing the Select Board to reinstate police Sergeant Tim Brennan, who was fired by the board in February. 

Resident Karen Crum made an 8-minute presentation on behalf of the petition’s sponsors. She noted that no police officer has ever been terminated in Hopkinton for a policy violation. “The Select Board’s actions were wholly without precedent,” said Crum. 

Crum noted at the outset of her presentation that any vote would be symbolic only, because Town Meeting is not the appointing authority for police officers. “We have no control over what these five people will do, or the next five. But what we do have the ability to do is send a clear message on what we want them to do,” she said. “It’s up to them to decide whether they’re going to respect our wishes or not.”

During the timeline of her presentation, Crum introduced an event that was not previously known to many residents. She described a meeting that took place in Executive Session on November 1, 2023 that would have brought Sgt. Brennan back from administrative leave. Crum claimed that Brennan, his attorney, Chief Bennett, the town’s attorney Nick Anastopolis, and former Town Manager Norman Khumalo had all agreed to an 8-day suspension, a mutually-agreed upon press release stating that Brennan had the “full support of the town”, and that Brennan would be returned to his position.

Crum elaborated that the town’s attorney took the deal to the Select Board, but that one of them had scuttled it. “The only thing I don’t know is who spoke on behalf of the board to say ‘we’re not going to accept that’. We could ask them, but it clearly wasn’t Muriel.”

Later, Town Counsel Bryan Bertram commented that he was “a little disappointed that [settlement discussions] have gotten in to the public”. “They should not have been released,” he said.

After Crum finished laying out the facts of the matter, scores of residents took to the microphone to offer their support. 

“I think everyone knows what the pulse of this room is,” said resident Ben Chirco. “I know we elected the Select Board, but why should they have the final decision? There’s 300 people in the town of Hopkinton that cares about what happens to [Brennan] and they’re all here right now.”

“I can say in my personal opinion the Select Board did the wrong thing here,” added lifetime resident and former Selectman Mike Shepherd. “They had multiple opportunities to make it right…I stand in support of this article as a former Selectman because you actually represent US,” he said, motioning to the seated Select Board members. “We voted for you.”

Resident Rachel Klein spoke in opposition to the measure. Stating that she is an attorney, Klein said she had not met Tim Brennan, but that she had “no doubt that based on everything I’ve heard about him that he is a very good man”. “But reporting policies exist in law enforcement not just to protect individual community members, they exist to protect communities as a whole and to protect the functioning of departments. And when we allow individual law enforcement officers to deviate from these highest standards, we risk both community safety and the rule of law.” 

More than 30 minutes later a vote was called for, and it passed 220 to 98, a full 69% in support. Town Moderator Ellen Rutter had previously warned the audience against applause, but her admonishment wasn’t enough to prevent supporters of the measure from erupting at the conclusion.

Select Board Candidates React

Subsequently, HopNews reached out to all four candidates for Select Board for a statement. 

“I watched and listened with great interest during this discussion.  Both sides of the issue were presented at the microphone,” said Brian Herr. “Having heard multiple perspectives, Town Meeting took a vote.  I voted YES.  More than two thirds of Town Meeting voted yes.  Therein lies the GENERAL WILL of Town Meeting. The Select Board should now confer with Town Counsel and explore the options to reinstate Tim Brennan.”

Peter Mimmo, who is also running, said “My perspective remains unchanged. Labor disputes, such as this one, belong in the grievance – arbitration procedure between the Town and the Union representing Mr. Brennan. I share Town counsel’s view and was equally dismayed that the confidentiality of the parties’ settlement discussions may have been breached.    I think that’s at best counterproductive to the parties’ efforts to resolve the matter. I remain committed to reviewing the matter as it proceeds through to arbitration and will keep an open mind about the possibility of a reasonable settlement which, as it must, needs to be in the best interests of our community. Accordingly, I did exactly as I said I would do, which was to vote “No” on the Article.”

Candidate Joe Clark added “I think the vote was an awesome example of the residents using the meeting process to clearly express the will of the town in a situation where there was an injustice.”

Kyla McSweeney wrote “This matter is part of a pending arbitration between the town and the union representing Mr. Brennan, therefore I do not feel that any public officials including candidates should be commenting on the matter.  I agree with the town counsel last night that no one except the current Select Board knows all the details of what transpired in executive session that led to their decision.  I remain hopeful that the arbitration process can provide a solution that is best for the town.  If elected, and the matter comes before me I remain committed to studying all the facts and keeping an open mind  while engaging in respectful conversations with my colleagues on the Select Board.”

Annual Town Meeting Resumes

Upon conclusion, the Special Town Meeting was dissolved and Annual Town Meeting resumed, picking up where the body left off the night before. 

Voters agreed to fund new vehicle purchases, hydrant flushing, and sewer treatment plant upgrades for the Department of Public Works. There was discussion but little dissent. 

Article 33, which was proffered by the Select Board, sought to purchase three parcels of land behind Town Hall for the purpose of building a downtown parking lot. Heated debate on the matter ensued, with the measure failing with 89 Yes votes and 181 No votes. 

The final article discussed was Article 34, which sought to set aside $10,000 for Toxic Chemicals (including PFAS) testing in town lands and water. The original sponsor of the article, the Sustainable Green Committee, had recommended “No Action”, explaining that their implementation plan was not yet fully formed. However, resident Peter Thomas introduced a motion to increase the funding amount to $30,000, in an effort to “set aside” the funds for the Sustainable Green Committee to use when ready. “We need to understand the level of contamination in our town,” said Thomas. (Mr. Thomas is the editor-in-chief at HopNews)

Select Board member Shahidul Mannan, speaking as a private citizen, stated that last September he had proposed to form a PFAS/Clean Water Council to focus on the issue. He later returned to the microphone and proposed an amendment to the amendment. “If we are going to keep a ballpark number, why not $50,000?”, sparking laughter from the audience.

As Mannan looked on smiling, Moderator Rutter appeared confused by his request, “did he just try to amend it?, she asked Town Clerk Connor Degan, and then to Mr. Mannan said “I’m sorry, are you asking again to amend the amendment to the amendment?” 

“That’s correct,” replied Mannan. 

Ultimately all amendments were consolidated into a final article, which failed to pass. 

At 11:30 PM, the meeting was adjourned and the exhausted residents filed out into the night. 

Part three of Town Meeting will continue tonight at 7:00 PM. On the agenda: MBTA Zoning, Adopting the Specialized Energy Code, and addressing the weak chief / strong chief so-called “scrivener’s error” in the Town Charter.

>> RELATED: Your Guide to Town Meeting 2024

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I can commend Mimmo for his transparency and honesty about his stance. Unfortunately, his take on the situation is wrong. Brennan was the victim of a smear campaign……this isn’t just a technical arbitration issue. It’s a matter of moral and intellectual courage to do the right thing. Those who suggest Brennan didn’t protect a minor or a rape victim don’t understand the specifics or nuances of reporting guidelines, nor do they understand the timeline of this case. The town will lose their case against Brennan…..deservedly so.

    • Not beating a dead horse, but the issue is a lot bigger than just looking at the survivor.

      It’s an accountability and governance problem – Brennan did not follow the proper reporting guidelines for an internal incident. Tim did the proper thing for a victims advocate, but not as a police officer who hears about other police officer misconduct.

      I have no moral issue with his actions, but I do think that he lost trust to follow proper procedure when there is other officer misconduct and I, personally, would not want an officer on the police force who flagrantly ignored the ethical violation in reporting officer misconduct for a single survivor protection.

  2. So, they are upset that specifics of a meeting that were leaked or made public, but obviously don’t give a rat’s ass about your loser of a chief disclosing personal and identifying information about a protected (by Tim Brennan and the law) citizen who is the victim of an appalling crime? Are you listening to yourselves Hopkinton SP??

  3. Mr.Mimmo-you’re very protective of the privacy of those involved in Arbitration and what has leaked out; how do you feel about the privacy of the victim that was disclosed by both chief Bennett and Amy Ritterbush?

  4. Sam-they obviously have not listened to a thing Tim Brennan, the professional with years of sexual assault and victim advocacy, had to say in his testimony about protecting his victim. I say ‘his’ victim, or as Muriel Kramer refers to her ‘the survivor’ because no one else in the SB, not the chief, town attorney or town manger give a rat’s ass about her. Thank you again and again and again, Tim Brennan for standing firm and your advocacy.

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