WEST NEWBURY – Selectmen released a statement this week to acknowledge a link between the retirement of Police Chief Art Reed last year and sexual harassment complaints made against him by a town employee in March 2018.
The statement said town officials investigated the matter and handed down disciplinary measures. Months after the investigation was complete, selectmen told Reed they would not renew his contract after his three-year term expired Jan. 24, 2019.
“He was notified that there was not a majority of the board that was interested in renewing his contract,” selectmen Chairman David Archibald said in an interview.
That information was not made public, however. Instead, Reed put forth a different narrative, which was not challenged by town officials until this week.
In a letter in November 2018 to selectmen and a Daily News reporter, Reed said he was not planning to renew his contract and was going to retire.
Neither Archibald nor Town Manager Angus Jennings would comment on Reed’s departure.
“I didn’t feel comfortable renewing Chief Reed’s contract with these findings that had come out,” Archibald said.
In their statement, selectmen acknowledged that a town employee filed a complaint in March 2018 but did not comment on what they say took place.
“This complaint was taken seriously and procedures were followed according to the town protocol in place at the time,” the statement from selectmen said. “An investigation was carried out and there was found to be a basis for the complaint. Disciplinary measures for the chief were handed down by the Board of Selectmen. The incident was reported to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.”
Selectmen also acknowledged mistakes were made along the way, including not informing the town employee of the town’s finding after its investigation was completed. Additionally, selectmen admitted that new revelations, which cast doubt on Reed’s conduct as chief, surfaced after he was disciplined.
“All of the facts were not available or were not discovered until after the time of the investigation,” the statement reads. “Ultimately, however, all relevant materials were made available to the Essex County District Attorney’s office,” the statement reads.
Reed did not return calls for comment from the newspaper this week.
The selectmen’s statement came days after The Daily News received word about sexual harassment allegations against Reed.
Reed joined the West Newbury Police Department in 2015, taking over as chief from Lisa Holmes, who retired earlier that year. Reed’s law enforcement career began in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1984, where he rose from patrol officer to detective.
He was named police chief of Newfields, New Hampshire, in 2002 and spent three years as acting town administrator during his time there.
In 2016, Reed hinted that he intended to stay in West Newbury longer than his three-year contract when he was hoping the department would receive national accreditation, something he wanted to accomplish “within the next five years.”
Following Reed’s departure from the department in December 2018, then-Sgt. Jeffrey Durand was named acting chief. In 2019, selectmen voted to make Durand chief.
In a phone interview this week, Archibald said the town feels badly when any employee is treated in an inappropriate matter.
“We’re chagrined about this,” he said.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.