Belchertown board affirms paid leave for Police Chief Francis Fox, names Sgt. Bruce Jenks acting chief

Last modified: Tuesday, September 15, 2015

BELCHERTOWN — The Select Board voted unanimously Monday night to affirm Chairman Ronald Aponte’s decision to place Police Chief Francis Fox on paid leave in the wake of a report that he was driving drunk in Granby on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Select Board also named Sgt. Bruce Jenks as acting chief while the board decides on its next move.

Aponte announced another meeting of the Select Board for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, at which Fox will appear to answer questions. That meeting with Fox, Aponte said, would be held behind closed doors because it involves a personnel matter.

According to a February report by Granby patrolman Jason Richard, Fox’s unmarked police cruiser was seen driving on the wrong side of the road, nearly hitting an oncoming vehicle. After pulling Fox over, Richard stated that Fox was slurring his words, smelled of alcohol, appeared to be glassy-eyed and stumbled when he got out of the car.

Richard also reported that Fox argued with him, insisting that he was “fine to drive,” and that he tried to intimidate the young officer by criticizing his “attitude toward him.”

Richard did not administer a breathalyzer test or issue a ticket, instead electing to drive Fox home.

Fox was not cited or arrested at the time, and prosecutors say too much time has elapsed to mount a successful case against him.

Aponte said Monday that he reserved judgment on what, if any, consequences Fox should face based on these allegations until Fox has a chance to respond. “He is entitled to due process,” Aponte said, explaining that he made the decision to put the chief on leave “out of an abundance of caution.”

Select Board member George “Archie” Archible, who said he has not read the one-page Granby police report yet, made the motion to ratify Aponte’s decision to place Fox on leave.

Board member Nicholas O’Connor said after the vote that the standard he will use in determining whether he has faith in Fox’s ability to continue on as chief will be whether Fox lives up to standards of “responsibility, accountability and integrity” that the position requires.

For him, it won’t be a question of whether Fox meets a legal standard of guilt or innocence relating to the allegations contained in the Granby Police report. Rather, O’Connor said, he will approach this question “as an employer” would.

Asked what standards he will use to guide him in how to deal with Fox, Aponte said, “Our job first and foremost is to find out what happened.”

Aponte said he will rely on the police report and on Fox’s responses in the session scheduled for Thursday as well as any other relevant material to guide him.

O’Connor said he would be troubled if he found out that members of the Belchertown Police Department knew about the February incident and didn’t come forward with this information. Asked whether his concern implies that Fox should have reported the incident to the Select Board at the time, O’Connor replied, “You can draw your own conclusions based on what I said.”

This is not the first time Fox’s role as police chief has caused controversy in Belchertown. In February 2011, the then Select Board voted 3-2 not to renew Fox’s contract. After a public outcry, which included gathering signatures for petitions to recall board members who voted not to renew Fox’s contract, the board reversed itself and voted 4-1 to keep Fox in his job, which currently comes with a salary of $96,502.

Aponte announced Monday that the minutes for the Feb. 8, 2011, meeting where the non-renewal vote on Fox’s contract took place have never been approved and could therefore not be made public. He said the Select Board will review those minutes at its meeting later this week and vote on whether to approve them so they can be released.

Aponte, Archible and board member William Barnett were all on the board for the 2011 votes. Aponte and Barnett voted to renew Fox’s contract, while Archible initially voted against renewal, but then changed his mind.

Aponte said, “it was a big surprise for me” when he learned that minutes for a meeting from more than four and a half years ago are still not public.

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at


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