Police Dept. promotion: Rollinson to be second-in-charge

Police Dept. promotion: Rollinson to be second-in-charge

SCITUATE - Careful to avoid acting on anything not specifically listed on its agenda, the Town Council at its Aug. 14 meeting voted to allow Police Chief Col. David M. Randall to appoint a second-in-command, with formal council approval of the individual to follow later.

Randall announced that he would promote Eric Rollinson from patrolman to lieutenant, effective Aug. 15.

The announcement won applause from the 40 or so people present in the council chambers, including other police officers and members of the Fraternal Order of Police Association.

Rollinson stood to acknowledge the applause but offered no comments publicly.

Randall told the council that the department was in "crisis" because the two officers who were second- and third-in-charge of the department had retired within the last month, leaving him on his own to supervise all department activities without a command staff.

Such a shortage of manpower, Randall warned, could result in "serious liability" to the town.

The police chief noted that Rollinson had "served with distinction" as a captain in the Foster Police Department, retiring after more than 20 years on the neighboring force. He's been with Scituate police as a patrolman for about three years, Randall said, but his previous experience means he "can hit the ground running."

"He immediately can assist me as second-in-command, and help me hire new officers," Randall said, as well as plan operations for the Scituate Art Festival on Columbus Day weekend when thousands of people visit the town.

Randall said Rollinson would begin earning lieutenant's pay as of Friday, Aug. 15.

At first, Councilman William Hurry Jr. said he felt "privileged" to make a motion in favor of appointing Rollinson, but then Town Solicitor David M. D'Agostino warned that the appointment was not listed on the agenda. The agenda said there would be a staffing proposal by the police chief and, in another item, police promotions would be discusssed.

"I distinctly recall," D'Agostino said, the 2008 council meeting when former Police Chief William Mack, who was about to retire, recommended Randall for the chief's job and Steve Lang as deputy. These appointments were not listed on the council agenda and had to be re-done after they were successfully challenged as a violation of the state Open Meetings Act by town resident Richard Finnegan, an attorney who often attends council meetings.

A sharp critic of Randall, Finnegan was present at the Aug. 14 meeting, but said he supported Rollinson because as bail commissioner he's worked with the new lieutenant whom, he added, has "my highest recommendation."

Nonetheless, "out of an abundance of caution," D'Agostino urged the council to delay appointing Rollinson by name.

So Hurry moved that the council authorize Randall to make an interim appointment, with formal council approval to come at a later date. The motion passed 6-0 with Councilwoman Brenda Frederickson absent.

In other business, the council:

* Learned from Reggie Centracchio, chairman of the town's Fire Suppression and EMS Committee, that some leaders of the town's four volunteer fire departments are balking at turning over financial information to his committee because it is not the Town Council. A letter will be sent to the fire chiefs affirming the official nature of Centracchio's committee. Also, a special Town Council meeting, yet to be scheduled, will be held to discuss with Centracchio's panel the purchase of fire equipment and other matters related to fire and rescue.

* Learned from D'Agostino that discussions with the Providence Water Supply Board regarding a land swap have not been proceeding well, with PWSB showing little interest in the town proposal. The town wants to swap land, giving the PWSB 12 acres in exchange for seven acres that include land underneath the North Scituate fire station and under the parking lot behind Town Hall. The town currently leases this land and the leases expired long ago, according to comments made at the meeting.

Another session with PWSB has been scheduled, but officials are doubtful much will be accomplished. Town Engineer David Provonsil admitted he is perplexed by the PWSB's disinterest in what would be a permanent solution to the leasing situation because no precedent can be set in this unique case and it's not as if PWSB can evict the town. Councilman John Winfield Jr. observed that nothing in this regard is likely to happen before the November election.

* Granted approval for establishment of a "Little Free Library" at the senior center on Chopmist Hill Road, as requested by town resident Steve Pechie. He noted the two libraries in town - North Scituate and Hope - are in the eastern half of town, while he lives in the western half where Chopmist Hill Community and Senior Center is located.

Based on the honor system, and with no cost to the town or its taxpayers, a Little Free Library is a neighborhood book exchange, consisting of an outdoor book shelf (protected from the elements) where people can leave books important to them and discover books left by others. Currently there are five Little Free Libraries in Rhode Island and hundreds across the country, Pechie said. He will be in charge of maintaining it.

* Granted permission to town residents Ellen and Stuart Smith to post signs and ribbons around town to alert people to the U.S. Pain Foundation and its services for those suffering pain all of the time.

* Took no action on a request from Finnegan to waive copying fees for police dispatching records he seeks related to the fatal fire at 54 Silk Lane earlier this year. Plans could be arranged for Finnegan to hear the audio tapes rather than have someone copy pages, council members said, but the council could take no action because this idea was not listed on the agenda - a point Finnegan could hardly dispute.