TAMWORTH — Tamworth Police Chief Dana Littlefield recently questioned selectmen about a job evaluation in which the board said he needs to work on being more courteous and better managing his time.
Littlefield, a Kennett High School alumnus, was sworn in as chief in October 2017. The Tamworth Board of Selectmen consists of Chairman Dan Poirier, Willie Farnum, Becky Mason, Aaron Ricker and Melanie Streeter.
At the Sun’s request, Littlefield provided a copy of the evaluation.
In it, the selectmen noted that Littlefield “needs to improve areas of communication regarding being courteous to public and individuals”; was “not willing to work with the budget committee. Not willing to place requested items on police department monthly report;” and “needs to improve his time management skills to improve the use of taxpayers’ funds with available staff.”
At the Jan. 9 selectmen’s meeting, department heads like Littlefield get a chance to update the board on various topics. Littlefield’s update was to bring up his evaluation covering the period from Dec. 20, 2018-Dec. 17, 2019.
He specifically wanted to know about his alleged impoliteness. “Was it a complaint or something particular?”
Farnum said someone had requested information from Littlefield and hadn’t heard back.
“It wasn’t a formal complaint, but if you would like it to be formal, that probably can happen,” said Farnum, adding that the complaint wasn’t the only basis for the selectmen’s recommendation.
Selectman Becky Mason said she believes it was his response to the budget committee.
In October, budget advisory committee chair Casslyn Cook complained to selectmen that Littlefield was refusing to turn over employee time sheets.
At that October selectmen’s meeting, Littlefield said, “I have no desire to work with the budget committee this year.” He said the budget committee was refusing to discuss their proposed cuts with him and that they were publishing “misleading information.” He also accused them of “micromanaging.” He alsod said that an “emergency operations” exception to the Right to Know law allows him to keep the department’s schedule under wraps.
Cook said the budget committee was trying to gather information ahead of meeting with department heads so their meetings could be as productive as possible. “We are reviewing everybody’s time sheets,” said Cook.
Budgeteer Madeline Siniscalchi said Littlefield had overspent on the overtime budget and they wanted to know why.
Littlefield replied that the part-time officer was on medical leave so other officers had been taking more shifts.
Selectmen decided to find out if the schedules would be public documents. On Jan. 9, Farnum told Littlefield that selectmen were asking for statistics for months that Littlefield didn’t provide.
Littlefield said he denied Poirier’s requests for data on how many miles the officers drove because Littlefield believed that was not an accurate measure of productivity.
Poirier is a past Tamworth police chief who retired in 2016.
Littlefield told selectmen he provided court hours and school hours, and he challenged selectmen to explain the comment about his time management skills. “I don’t know how you guys create an evaluation where you have no response to anything,” said Littlefield, adding that good managers need to give more feedback.
Farnum replied, “We’re not perfect.” He added that Littlefield read and signed his evaluation and left the meeting promptly afterward. “There was no back and forth and discussion, and that’s partly our fault,” said Farnum. “I will take some of the heat on that.”
Siniscalchi, at the Jan. 9 meeting, said Littlefield’s evaluation was a “personnel issue” and “nobody’s business,” but Littlefield replied that he is a protected person under New Hampshire’s Right to Know law and chose to make it public.
“Why were you so nasty, and I will use that word nasty, to the board and the budget committee?” asked Siniscalchi.
Siniscalchi said Littlefield was lying when he said the budget committee was publishing incorrect information. She said they only repeated the information they received from him.
“Madeline, I think you’ve got your information wrong,” said Littlefield.
“You gave it to us!” she shouted at him.
Poirier interjected, “All right, I’’m moving along here.”
Selectmen, at their meeting Jan. 14 unanimously decided to cut two proposed police officer positions from Littlefield’s budget, saying taxpayers couldn’t afford to increase the department from three full-time officers to five.
“I’m very concerned that the police budget is considerably larger than it was last year,” said Farnum, adding Littlefield wanted to increase the police budget from about $372,000 to nearly $559,000.
Budgeteer Art Mason said his friends in law enforcement say there’s no crime in Tamworth.
Littlefield demanded Mason share the names of the friends.
“I’m not giving you no names, Dana,” said Mason. “This town doesn’t need five police officers.”
Mason said the town doesn’t even need a police department, but Littlefield said Tamworth is one of the busiest police departments in the county.