Plainfield board chairman to resign after voters nix police raises

  • HOWARD BRONSTEIN

Staff Writer
Published: 7/2/2020 7:11:19 PM
Modified: 7/2/2020 7:11:09 PM

PLAINFIELD — An annual Town Meeting decision to take away proposed salary increases from the police chief and two officers, despite being recommended to voters by town officials, is prompting the resignation of the Select Board’s chairman.

In a letter to the community posted on the town’s website Tuesday, Howard Bronstein, whose June 20 reelection to the board came the same day as Town Meeting, announced that he would leave the board effective Nov. 4.

In a phone interview, Bronstein said his decision was based largely on what he viewed as residents undermining the months-long budget process by the Select Board and Finance Committee. That process led to advocating for the total spending on police salaries to increase from $78,468 to $99,216, bringing the chief’s pay to $22 per hour and officers’ pay to $19 per hour.

But residents at Town Meeting objected to the higher compensation, even though no concerns had been raised in advance.

“I am resigning because the last-minute effort was a repository of a feeling that people felt they could not bring forward to the board,” Bronstein said.

Bronstein said residents were telling the elected officials, in effect, that the process wasn’t good enough, and that he had failed in his stewardship of the board he has served on for the past four years.

He understands that some of the sentiment to cut the police budget comes from support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“By conflating those issues, I think our police department will suffer,” Bronstein said.

Earlier in June, Bronstein put out a letter in response to concerns about police actions following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In that, he quoted Bennie Thompson, Democratic congressman from Mississippi, and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus:  “Police should not be an enemy… Police should be friends of the community.”

Bronstein credits Plainfield Police Chief Justin Litchfield for his accessibility, noting he is present at the second Select Board meeting each month to answer any questions from or concerns raised by residents.

Bronstein said Plainfield will have two elections on Nov. 3, the town election and presidential election, the day before his resignation becomes official. 

Meantime, the Select Board, which recently met for the first time since the election, has a new member, with Rebecca Coletta defeating James Meehan, 114-31, for the final two years of the position vacated by Winton Pitcoff. The incumbent tree warden, Robert Pytko, was upended by Robert Mellstrom, 97-41, at the same election.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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