© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Report: Former Greenfield mayor granted large raises to police leadership just ahead of election

Town hall in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
File Photo
Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
The town hall in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

The embattled police chief of Greenfield, Massachusetts, and his top deputy received substantial raises from former Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, the week before she lost her re-election bid last November. That's according to The Shoestring news website.

Reporter Dusty Christensen said the bump in pay for Chief Robert Haigh and Deputy Chief William Gordon were tied to educational incentives for their respective college degrees.

Dusty Christensen, The Shoestring: So, for the police chief, this will result in a 20% increase to his base salary. And for the deputy chief, it will result in a 25% hike in his base pay. And I should note that often for police officers, an increase to your base pay also results in other increases to other categories of pay that may be based on a percentage of that original base pay.

Adam Frenier, NEPM: Now let's take a step back for a moment. Remind us of the controversy that surrounded the police department and its leadership. And of course, that also was a major issue in the mayoral election that just passed.

The central controversy that has been roiling the city of Greenfield for a while now is the fact that Police Chief Robert Haigh, who has received this massive pay increase, in 2022 a jury found that he had discriminated against a Black officer in the department. Now the city has appealed that verdict. But following the decision, Mayor Wedegartner reinstated Haigh as police chief. And that led to a lot of people in town being upset.

It was a big issue during election season. And so, that is the kind of context behind the fact that, as one of her last acts in office, Mayor Wedegartner gave these big raises to the two people in charge of a department that is at the center of a big legal mess in the city.

What has the current mayor — Virginia Desorgher — had to say about these raises that ostensibly she just found out about?

Mayor Desorgher declined to comment through a spokesperson for our article, and her office didn't answer follow up questions either. I suspect that she is looking forward to this playing out at the City Council level.

You know, these are obviously agreements that the mayor, the previous mayor, signed with these two police officials. But ultimately it is up to the City Council to fund — or, I suppose, decline to fund — things such as these agreements. So we are all eager to see how this plays out in the City Council moving forward in Greenfield.

Have any of the councilors spoken out about this?

I wasn't able to reach the council president, John Bottomley, but I did reach a new councilor, Rachel Gordon. She was elected in November to the Precinct 2 seat on the City Council. And as somebody who's been active in activism around this policing issue in Greenfield, she said she found it interesting that this was such a priority for the outgoing mayor. And she noted that Wedegartner had attempted to cut $1.5 million out of the School Committee's proposed budget earlier last year.

That was another big controversy in the city, and Gordon drew the connection between those attempts to cut education funding and the boosting of funding for policing in the city. She said that the election in November, the landslide election of Virginia "Ginny" Desorgher as mayor made it clear that people in the city want accountability from the police and, in her words, want to end corruption in city government.

So, how is the city going to fund these raises if the City Council chooses to do so?

That's a good question that we'll ultimately see play out in the City Council level. The financial order that Mayor Desorgher has put in front of the City Council suggests pulling funds, at least for these first-year costs, out of reserve funds in the city. That's an account that has about $75,000 in it. And she is requesting around $50,000 be pulled out to fund these pay increases. Who knows if the City Council is going to go for that.

And I'm sure that Mayor Desorgher is not happy about having to find a place to draw this money from. In an interview I did with her shortly after her election, she said that there was some cleaning up to do in the police department, possibly a hint at a change in leadership. We don't know. So, we're going to see where this funding comes from. It's very unclear where former Mayor Wedegartner had intended to pull those dollars from.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
Related Content