Selectmen Appoint Veteran Patrolman to Be Acting Chief

By MAX HART

The Tisbury police department remained in the spotlight this week, as selectmen appointed one of the town's veteran officers to serve as temporary chief of police after outgoing chief Theodore (Ted) Saulnier announced he would step down three weeks earlier than anticipated.

Timothy Stobie, a patrolman who has served on the department for 17 years, was named acting police chief during the selectmen's meeting on Tuesday night, five days after Mr. Saulnier unexpectedly announced that his last day at work would be today, June 9.

Mr. Stobie will assume police chief duties beginning tomorrow, and will serve until selectmen complete their search for a full-time police chief.

Mr. Stobie's appointment is the latest move in the board's ongoing efforts to bring stability to the top levels of the department, which has been in flux for the past year. Selectmen decided last year not to renew Mr. Saulnier's three-year contract after the two parties were unable to reach agreement on the chief's financial compensation. Although the contract expired June 30, 2005, it contained a provision that Mr. Saulnier could remain in his post for up to one year after that date.

Mr. Saulnier had never told the selectmen when he planned to leave, though he also offered no prior indication that it would be before June 30 of this year. Consequently, selectmen appointed a search committee this spring with the goal of hiring someone at the start of the summer. The selectmen also explored an unusual proposal to share the services of Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake, but the idea was set aside last week after Mr. Blake withdrew his name from consideration. Along with concerns about the timing of such an arrangement, patrolmen from both departments expressed displeasure with the plan.

Now refocused on the search committee's findings, selectmen have yet to settle on a final list of candidates - though they expect to begin interviews soon. Selectmen have estimated hiring a new chief by mid-July.

On Tuesday, board chairman Tristan Israel said that after receiving Mr. Saulnier's notice the selectmen turned to consultant Robert Wasserman of Strategic Policy Partnership - a consulting firm that helps police and government agencies with performance and policy issues - for ideas on temporary replacements. Mr. Wasserman, who has advised the town on police matters in the past, suggested that the selectmen appoint an acting police chief from within the department. He also recommended that the temporary chief be neither a sergeant nor anyone who had applied for the position.

Selectman Thomas Pachico suggested appointing Mr. Stobie over another veteran patrolman, Mark Santon. Mr. Santon is a detective and is currently in charge of court duties, and Mr. Pachico worried that being acting chief would be too much work. Both Mr. Santon and Mr. Stobie attended the meeting.

After a brief discussion, the board voted unanimously in favor of Mr. Stobie, adding that they were sensitive to disrupting the atmosphere inside the department.

"We know that it is an awkward situation going from patrolman to chief, then back to patrolman," Mr. Pachico said.

The board also assured Mr. Stobie that the temporary move will be reflected in his compensation. Mr. Stobie will receive a raise in accordance with the change from a unionized patrolman to the non-union management position.