GOULDSBORO — The town is looking for a new police chief, having fired Paul Gamble, the former chief, on Feb. 3.
The firing took place in an executive session of the five-member Board of Selectmen. The vote was 5-0.
Gamble’s probationary period had been extended from three months to six months and was due to expire Feb. 22.
The Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Bryan Kaenrath declined to comment on the issue, saying it is a personnel matter and therefore private.
Kaenrath said local officials have been advised by their attorney not to elaborate on the dismissal.
In the meantime, Gamble said he is retaining legal counsel through Clifford & Clifford of Portland and Kennebunk.
The firm includes employment law among its specialties. Gamble was due to meet with one of the firm’s attorneys Feb. 10.
With Gamble gone, the town’s police force is made up of one full-time police officer, Tyler Dunbar, one part-time officer, Ken Schuurman, and Glenn Grant, the former police chief who has come out of retirement to serve as police chief 10 to 15 hours per week.
“To my knowledge, both of them [Dunbar and Schuurman] have no plans to be leaving,” Kaenrath said.
Gamble said that since his firing was made public, he has received “a lot of support from citizens of Gouldsboro.”
Many, he said, told him they plan to be at the selectmen’s meeting Thursday, Feb. 11, to voice their concerns over the firing.
Gamble said that when he appeared before the selectmen Feb. 3, they showed him two receipts for gas purchased on the Police Department’s gas card.
He said he had used the card to put gas in his truck — which he said he had driven on town business — and in the police cruiser.
Gamble said he then gave the selectmen two more receipts for $20 each, saying he had used the card for gas used on police business.
Included in one of the $20 receipts, he said, was $5 he put in each of his own four-wheelers, which he and another officer used Jan. 17 to search for a stolen truck during a snowstorm.
“We were told the truck we were looking for was put into a gravel pit,” Gamble said.
The total for the four purchases, he said, was about $100 to $140.
“If they had just told me: ‘We know you’re using your own vehicle. Don’t use the gas card. Keep track of your mileage and turn it in,’” Gamble said.
He said he made about 20 trips to Bangor, Brewer and Ellsworth since he was named police chief on Aug. 24, 2015.
Since the selectmen are not commenting about the firing, the only version of events was provided by Gamble.
He does acknowledge that his relationship with the board has at times been testy.
Soon after Gamble started he changed the color of the uniforms for the new officers to navy blue. The former chief wore black.
Gamble said he did this since he was wearing the navy blue uniforms he had used as police chief on Swan’s Island. He had the department name re-embroidered on the seven uniforms at a total cost of $81.
“It was actually saving the town money by me going to the navy blue,” Gamble said. “Tyler was going to need uniforms and Ken needed all new uniforms. When you start a whole new department they have to expect some money is going to be spent. But they didn’t see that.”
He changed the patch on the uniforms as well.
“There is a difference between a badge and a patch, which looks like a typical security type patch,” Gamble said.
He said that he and Dunbar, the other full-time police officer, came up with three or four designs and let people vote on their favorite on the department’s Facebook page.
Gamble said he spent $800 on ammunition, which he said he bought in Bangor at a shop that offers discounted prices.
He said every year police officers have to qualify with pistols and rifles at the shooting range.
“September is usually when we do it for Gouldsboro,” he said.
Gamble said he did not have a performance review at three months, other than he was told by one or more selectmen that he was spending too much money.
Yet the department’s budget, he said, is only 44 percent spent seven months into the 12-month fiscal year.
There also were some rumblings about Gamble’s request to move his office into the fire chief’s office off of the town office meeting room.
He said that was prompted by an audit conducted by state police in October saying that his current office in the town quarters was not secure, that records and other confidential paperwork were easily accessible to anyone walking in the back door.
The auditor, Gamble said, told him he had found the same problem during a prior audit but that nothing had been changed.
“There were huge security risks in our department,” Gamble said. “He wrote everything out. I went to the selectmen with these issues.”
Gamble said he was told by one selectman that the requirement does not apply to smaller towns.
At least one selectman also questioned whether Gamble had solicited the audit and asked that he provide proof that he had not.
He provided a letter from the auditor, but said he resented having to do so.
Ultimately he moved into the fire chief’s office and shares it with Fire Chief Tate McLean.
Gamble said one selectman would go into the town manager’s office prior to each meeting and request a record of everything Gamble had done since the prior selectman’s meeting two weeks prior.
“It was a very hostile work environment,” he said.
Most recently, Gamble asked the selectmen to approve a third, fulltime police officer position at a cost of more than $67,000 for wages and benefits.
He said the department was budgeted for three part-time officers but only had one.
He said he asked the selectmen at the Feb. 3 meeting, which he said lasted 10 to 15 minutes, why he was being fired, but that they did not tell him.
One man who was surprised and upset that Gamble had been fired called The American.
John Pouwels, owner of John Edwards Market in Ellsworth, said Gamble contacted him right away when Pouwels’ second home in Gouldsboro was burglarized recently.
The thieves made off with three guitars, hip waders, a television and a chainsaw.
“Here’s a guy who I think really looked into what was going on and did investigative work,” Pouwels said.
The investigation also included the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and state police.
Within a matter of days, Pouwels said, all of the items except for one guitar had been recovered and Gamble picked up the other two guitars at Mark’s Music in Brewer.
“According to Paul, he used his own vehicle and then put in for the gas money,” Pouwels said.
Gamble said he combined that trip in his own truck with his appearance in court in Bangor.
Pouwels said he offered Gamble a gift certificate to his store, but Gamble said he could not accept it.
“From the little I know of him, the town lost a valuable employee,” Pouwels said. “But I don’t know what the situation is with the selectmen in Gouldsboro.”