Aug. 3—PLAISTOW — A judge has decided against reinstating fired police Chief Douglas Mullin and awarding back pay after considering who signed his termination paperwork.
Mullin, represented by attorney J. Daniel Marr, argued that only Town Manager Greg Colby had the legal authority to fire him. However, the signature of then-Board of Selectmen Chairperson Darrell Britton appears on the papers.
In denying the summary judgment, Judge Daniel St. Hilaire made clear that a precedent should be avoided, meaning town managers should not make a habit of delegating tasks to selectmen, and selectmen, vice versa, should not participate in tasks that voters have assigned to a town manager.
"The court is sympathetic to (Mullin's) reasoning," the judge wrote. "Among other things, towns would likely face difficulty in hiring and retaining qualified town managers if selectmen could routinely exercise their supervisory authority as the town suggests."
St. Hilaire leaned heavily in his final ruling on comments made by Colby that he "expressly agreed to and welcomed the selectmen's decision to act as the deciding body."
Colby stated in his affidavit that because he was involved in arranging the review of union complaints against Mullin, and he was acting as interim town manager, selectmen voted to make the call at Mullin's disciplinary hearing.
"Nothing in the plain language of (the law) prohibits the Town Manager from willingly delegating his 'duty' to 'remove all subordinate officers and employees under his control' to the selectmen in a uniquely appropriate case," St. Hilaire went on.
The matter is scheduled for a bench trial, during which the court will have an opportunity to further question what caused Colby to willingly delegate this task.
Mullin told The Eagle-Tribune in the wake of the ruling that he had not yet decided if he will file an appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
The chief was let go after a majority vote by selectmen on Oct. 29, 2021. The board cited inefficiency as the reason for his termination, which Mullin and his attorney are also arguing against now.