HomeNewsTown Manager Candidate Resigned over Policing Controversy

Town Manager Candidate Resigned over Policing Controversy

Published on

20th Century Homes

On Tuesday night, the Hopkinton Select Board will interview four finalists for the position of Town Manager. 

>> RELATED: Meet the Finalists for Town Manager

But one candidate, Jason Hoch, who served as Williamstown’s Town Manager from 2015 – 2021, was forced to resign his position due to a complaint of “persistent racial harassment” and sexual assault within the police department.

Mr. Hoch was named in an August 2020 federal lawsuit filed by Williamstown Police Department (WPD) Sergeant Scott McGowan, who accused Hoch and Police Chief Kyle Johnson of failing to address racism and sexual assault within the WPD adequately.

For well over a decade, the Williamstown Police Department has maintained an atmosphere in which racial harassment and hostility to persons of color are tolerated and perpetrated at the highest level, to the extent that one officer of color left the Department just to escape the demeaning behavior of Chief Kyle Johnson. Town Manager Jason Hoch was made aware of Johnson’s discriminatory behavior but did not investigate or intervene to stop it; his concern was only that the reputation of the Town of Williamstown might suffer if these facts were publicized,” read the complaint.

Hoch and Johnson were also criticized for withholding information from the Select Board concerning a 2019 discrimination complaint.

In the lawsuit, McGowan also alleged that he faced retaliation from Hoch and Johnson, stating that he was passed over for a Lieutenant’s position, despite having 15 years of experience as a Sergeant. Instead, a patrolman with no command experience was promoted to the job. 

Gradually, as McGowan’s opposition to unlawful discrimination continued, his responsibilities were reduced, as the Town itself acknowledges. For example, in 2016, McGowan assisted an officer of color in transferring out of the WPD to escape racial harassment and discrimination. The following year, McGowan tried to transfer as well due to the negative work atmosphere, only to be blocked by Hoch,” the complaint reads.

In response, the Willamstown Select Board released a statement on August 30, 2020 that admitted some and denied other parts of McGowan’s allegations. Specifically, the board rejected the allegations that Chief Johnson committed sexual assault or racial harassment, and also claimed that McGowan did not experience retaliation for reporting and opposing alleged incidents of sexual assault and racial harassment.

Subsequently, a group of local citizens called for Johnson’s removal.

But at the Williamstown Select Board meeting on October 26, Town Manager Hoch announced his decision to retain Chief Johnson. The Select Board openly discussed removing Johnson, and the board was split 2-3 in favor of retention, but according to an article in The Williams Record “While the five Board members actively discussed and shared their opinions on the situation to Hoch, as Town Manager in a “strong town manager” system, Hoch has the legal authority to remove town employees.

HopNews has reviewed the Williamstown Charter and found that this is in fact not true. Like Hopkinton, the Select Board is the appointing authority for police officers in Williamstown, as stipulated in MGL Chapter 41 Section 97. HopNews contacted the acting Town Clerk who confirmed his belief that the Town Manager appoints police officers.

Johnson resigned as Police Chief in December, 2020, and in February, 2021, Hoch resigned as Town Manager. “I think he just came to the realization that his staying on was counterproductive to the work Williamstown needs to do,” Select Board Chair Jane Patton said at the time.

Patton also noted her “serious concern” over Hoch’s failure to inform the board about the 2019 discrimination complaint. “The complaint, I think, absolutely should have been brought to the board’s attention,” she told the Williamstown Record.

Hoch’s candidacy was recommended to the Hopkinton Select Board by Community Paradigm Associates, who were employed as a consultant in the Town Manager search process.

Sunnyside Gardens

Latest articles

Catch up with a briefing of the most important and interesting stories from Hopkinton delivered to your inbox.

4 COMMENTS

  1. More waisted money! A simple google search should have uncovered Hoch’s failures in his position as town manager.
    I certainly hope we won’t be using Community Paradigm Associates any longer. We should also withhold their fees for the shoddy work done.

  2. All residents should be aware that the majority of issues brought in front of our Select Board over the past 9+ months are still unresolved, so this latest one only adds to the list.

    Community Paradigm Associates has failed us. We should get our money back from this agency, but we won’t, so let’s hope we don’t use them again.

    Why in the world would they put a candidate in this situation? Is this really one of the four best candidates for our town to consider at this time? Maybe Paradigm should be taking a look at what current issues are going on with their clients before doing any interviewing/recruiting. Speaking of, I’m hoping they actually do actively recruit and they don’t just post an ad.

    All of us need to be aware of what “independent” agencies we use, who the main Hopkinton contact is for them, and who they are working for. These companies want to do what they are asked to do to secure future business, so what exactly is it we are asking them to do?

    This is yet another example of the questionable decisions the former Select Board made that residents still need to gain back some control with before our town makes upcoming big hiring decisions.

  3. Let’s let Jason Hoch explain the situation before passing judgment. The investigative work done by HopNews suggests that there was a governance issue in Williamstown. According to their town charter, the select board, like in our town, is responsible for appointing police officers and supervising the police chief, not the town manager. Mr. Hoch might have been caught between the police chief, the select board, and his power as outlined in the town charter. He deserves the benefit of the doubt and the right to explain himself.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More like this