SHELBURNE — Longtime Police Chief James W. Warden, who has been out since a brief unexplained suspension last month, has reached an agreement with the Selectboard for his retirement due to health reasons.
The board ratified the separation agreement late Tuesday. Warden has been head of the department for 30 years.
Board Chairman Gary von Stange said Warden signed the agreement Thursday and officially retired Friday, but is slated to stay on as a consultant through Jan. 31.
Von Stange outlined key parts of the agreement after a 10-minute executive session Tuesday night and said town officials won’t discuss the situation publicly because it is a personnel matter. He also read from a statement that is posted on the town website.
A public records search requested by VT Digger last week indicated Town Manager Joe Colangelo suspended Warden for three days starting July 19. Under the newly announced agreement, the suspension is rescinded, restoring three days’ compensation to Warden.
Warden sent police employees a brief memo July 18 titled “My suspension.” It didn’t say why Colangelo suspended him.
Alison Bell, Warden’s lawyer, said Wednesday in an email that the suspension was “completely unjustified and imposed without following the proper procedures.”
“As part of our agreement with the town, the suspension has been rescinded, all references to it have been expunged from Jim’s personnel record, and he has been paid for the three days,” Bell continued. “As the suspension now technically never existed, we will have no further comment about any details regarding it.
“Jim has served the town and its residents faithfully, in many capacities and for more than 30 years, and is grateful to have had the privilege to do so.”
Bell also referred to “medical reasons” for Warden’s retirement. No one has been specific about the health or medical issue.
The town’s statement said: “There has been much speculation in the press and among the public regarding Chief Warden’s absence from work for the last couple of weeks. Chief Warden has been out on medical leave since July 17, 2017.”
Bell and the town said Warden is staying on as a consultant to help with the leadership transition.
The agreement stipulates that Warden is to receive full pay during the period he works as an adviser, although he won’t earn sick, vacation or compensatory time off during that period. The document also says Warden won’t be allowed to file a workers’ compensation claim from the time of the agreement’s execution through Jan. 31.
Attempts to reach Warden on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Colangelo said Wednesday that it was premature to talk about a search for a new chief. He said acting Chief Aaron Noble, who has overseen the department since the middle of July, will continue in that role.