© 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

After Leyden police chief charged with embezzlement, town officials share mixed emotions

The Town Hall in Leyden, Massachusetts.
Creative Commons
John Phelan
The Town Hall in Leyden, Massachusetts.

Government officials in Leyden, Massachusetts, are reacting with mixed emotions to prosecutors bringing embezzlement charges against the small town’s former police chief on Monday.

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office has accused Daniel Galvis, who retired from the police department in 2021, of stealing a skid-steer loader, a motor, a trailer and a Ford truck from the town during the final three years of his tenure. Those allegations emerged from an investigation that the Office of the Inspector General opened in March 2022, ultimately concluding that Galvis had sold some of those items but never gave the proceeds back to the town.

Galvis now faces seven felony charges: two counts of larceny of a motor vehicle, two counts of larceny over $1,200 and three counts of violating the standards of conduct for public employees. He has pleaded not guilty. Galvis' attorney did not respond to NEPM’s request for comment on the case Monday and Galvis did not respond to a voicemail left at a number listed for him.

The charges brought against Galvis have some in town feeling optimistic, such as Glenn Caffery, who chairs the Leyden Select Board.

Caffery said that since 2021, when scandals involving Galvis first began to roil Leyden, residents have “stepped up and have rebuilt our town.” He said newly elected officials have implemented clearer ethics policies and that a large number of people volunteered to serve on a public safety commission that worked to reform beleaguered emergency services. Beginning last year, Bernardston police took over law enforcement duties in Leyden.

“It’s just model government happening as a very direct result of a reckoning with where we were at the time,” Caffery said. “The way I see it, these last two years have been an amazing experience with people just coming out of all corners of town with amazing talents and willingness to work together and work hard and we’ve made a lot of progress as a result of that.”

That reckoning began with public meetings in 2021, Caffery said.

Galvis retired in October of that year amid a scandal over racist emails he had sent fellow police officers and town officials, including one comparing former First Lady Michelle Obama to a monkey.

According to reporting in the Greenfield Recorder at the time, a former sergeant in the department also alleged that during training at a firing range in 2020, Galvis saw a silhouette target down-range and said, "What is this, an unarmed Black guy?”

Galvis defended the emails as "jokes and anecdotes" and disputed the accuracy of the shooting-range accusation.

Following the release of those emails, Leyden resident Ginger Robinson began digging into the disappearance of town equipment. That included military equipment the town had secured through a Department of Defense program that transfers surplus gear to law enforcement agencies. She ultimately went public with that information and passed it along to state law enforcement officials, all the while demanding to know where the equipment had gone.

“I want to know, and I’m not going to be quiet about it until I find out,” the Greenfield Recorder reported Robinson saying at a Select Board meeting in April 2022.

In an interview Tuesday, Robinson said she is appreciative of the state and local agencies that are handling the case, but wondered why it took them so long to bring charges against Galvis and why there aren’t more of them.

“I found the items he’s charged with over two years ago just by Googling and asking for some very basic public records from town,” Robinson said. “I would expect that over this time, with the IG’s investigative power, that they would have more findings. So this is concerning to me.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Office of the Inspector General said that she was “unable to comment on our investigation beyond the charges against Mr. Galvis.”

The IG’s office has declined to make public its investigative report. So, too, has the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. In January, the IG’s office denied a public records request for the report, citing a state law that exempts that office from public records requests.

Robinson said that she’s also surprised there were not more charges brought against others in town, who she said created the environment that led to Galvis’ alleged embezzlement. She described the list of missing items as “a mile long,” including equipment not mentioned in the current charges.

In an email, a spokesperson for the DA’s office said that prosecutors “don’t anticipate any additional charges” in the case.

For his part, Caffery said he is grateful for the work that state agencies have done on the case. He said that despite Leyden’s small size — 734 live in town, according to the 2020 census — those agencies and local lawmakers always made it clear they were taking the issue seriously.

As for where the town goes from here, Caffery said that he and other elected officials have worked to bring more transparency to Leyden, which he said was divided by the accusations against Galvis.

“Most of what happened in town was not all that visible and people felt burdened by the responsibilities that were placed on them to run town government,” he said. “And that flipped into entitlement and grievance and people made bad decisions and weren’t held accountable.”

Despite her concerns, Robinson said she too was happy that in recent years the town came together “to vote in a new government and vote out the old-boy network.” Looking forward, she said, she hopes the case against Galvis ends with some sort of restitution for Leyden.

“I hope we can get some money back for the town,” she said. “All those dollars that people went to work for, they gave them to the town for us to use in good faith, and for the good of the town and the good of the people. And I hope we can get that money back.”

Dusty Christensen is an investigative reporter based in western Massachusetts. He currently teaches news writing and reporting at UMass Amherst.
Related Content