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Friday, February 10, 2023

Charlestown has a new interim Town Administrator

And Berkley, Massachusetts has a new Town Administrator, too

By Will Collette 

The CCA treated Stankiewicz like he was a Marvel
superhero. As far as I can tell, his superpower is to
 cover up mistakes.
It’s going to be hard for former CPD Chief Jeffrey Allen to fill the shoes of St. Stanky of Stoughton, Charlestown’s recently departed town boss who has been sanctified by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance as “the best town administrator Charlestown has ever had.” 

Except Mark Stankiewicz wasn’t the best, not by a long shot, having failed the most fundamental responsibility of the job: the proper oversight of the town’s money. 

Interesting, Stankiewicz appeared to have little good to say about his time in Charlestown, telling the Taunton Gazette that storm emergency preparation and the use of drones were his most prominent achievements during his 10 years here. 

It also looks like Stankiewicz played the CCA for chumps. While they were singing his praises and trying to save his job after the CCA lost the election, he was already carrying out his exit strategy. He doesn’t say exactly when he decided to go for the Berkley Mass town administrator job saying, according to the Gazette: 

“He was advertising for a Charlestown vacancy in the Massachusetts Municipal Association job listing when he saw the Berkley position posted. ‘I said, “This could be a good fit for me', he recalled. " 

Most of the top managers in Berkley, MA suddenly resigned last summer, leaving them desperate to find new management. They posted the job vacancy last July with a November 9 deadline for applications. I am puzzled why Stankiewicz would think that, given the turmoil in Berkley, "it would be a good fit." But I guess he saw it as better than working another year for the CCA. 

Unless Stankiewicz filed his application the day after Election Day (application deadline was November 9), he was already looking to bail well before the CCA took its well-deserved thumping at the polls. 

You may recall that Charlestown has been roiled for months by revelations that somehow town managers had “misplaced” $3 million, had been overpaying town staff by failing to count the actual number of working days in a year and that Charlestown’s administrative costs are the highest in the state. 

The buck for all these issues stops with Stankiewicz. 

Through it all, the CCA denied there were any problems at all and, if there were, it wasn’t Stanky’s fault. Maybe space aliens. And if there were problems – and the CCA isn’t saying that there were – what’s the big deal because we have such a low tax rate. 

All the while, St. Mark was planning his big escape to Berkley. His daily commute from Stoughton to Charlestown was 72 miles and 90 minutes on a good day. Berkley is only 23 miles and a 20-minute run down I-495 from his house. 

Did his top apologist, ex-CCA Councilor and Charlestown demi-resident Bonnita Van Slyke know that Stankiewicz was looking to leave when she sent all those fact-challenged screeds to the Westerly Sun defending him? 

Here’s the kicker before we move on to Chief Allen. Stankiewicz pleaded with the Town Council to have his last day set as February 13, coinciding with his 10th anniversary and making him fully vested in the state retirement system. But also, by coincidence, February 13 is his starting day in Berkley’s Town Hall. I wonder if he’s getting paid by both towns for that day. 

Anyway, the CCA, especially Bonnie and Mikey Chambers, should face reality and get over it. Yes, he played you for chumps, but for you guys, that's situation normal.... 

Chief Allen when he was sworn in as CPD Chief in 2012
Now, moving on to new Charlestown interim town administrator Jeffrey Allen. He’s well known to many of us as a long-time Charlestown resident and our former Chief of Police. He retired in 2018 after more than six years as Chief. 

Before his term in Charlestown, Allen was an up-from-the-ranks top official in the South Kingstown Police which he joined in 1986. 

During his time in Charlestown, Chief Allen worked at building the force and a good working relationship with the Narragansett Tribal Police. In fact, before he took the job, Tribal Police Chief Jay Montey told the Independent that 

He and I started together, and I could tell early on that he was chief material. He’s a fair guy, and a guy who is full of integrity and good character, so it’s not a surprise at all.” 

Goodwill with the Tribe got Chief Allen and the town through a series of troubling problems caused by rogue CPD ex-cop Evan Speck. 

I first heard about Speck after an April 2014 incident where Speck, against orders, went onto Tribal land looking for suspects based on a report that someone in the woods might be discharging a firearm (duh – it’s surprising when you DON’T hear shots in the woods). He confronted a group of Tribal members at Schoolhouse Pond and picked out two of them as his suspects. 

Things got very ugly as Tribal members essentially told Speck to f**k off and Speck got more and more agitated. Fortunately, a more experienced CPD member and a Tribal cop arrived in time to prevent violence. 

This case turned into Charlestown v. Gonsalves and Barber which was heard in 2015. Speck should never should have arrested the two young men. Prosecutors never should have brought the case forward. 

But one of the issues raised by the Tribe was that its sovereignty was violated. This triggered Charlestown’s paid Indian fighter, lawyer Joe Larisa, who couldn’t help but come swooping in to combat any such claim. 

The facts in the case were pretty clear that Speck should have listened to orders to not cross into tribal land and certainly should not have made the arrests. To read the engrossing details of this case, CLICK HERE. That's how the judge ruled, dismissing the charges and blasting Charlestown for bringing such a ridiculous case.

Chief Allen did his best to calm things down and to bring Officer Speck under control. But Speck would have none of it. He sued Charlestown and the Chief for discriminating against him because he had ADHD. 

This all took a big turn on March 26, 2017, when the FBI, DEA and other federal and state agencies raided Speck’s home and found cash and a large quantity of steroids. Speck pleaded guilty to three federal charges for money laundering and drug dealing. He received a hybrid sentence that included some jail time, a long probation and community service. 

He also dropped his lawsuit and was ordered to send an apology to the town and the CPD. 

Getting the town through all this earned Chief Allen a lot of respect in my mind.

I don’t know if Chief Allen is interested in the town administrator job permanently, but I do wish him wish him a successful tenure, however long it may be.