Ex-Wendell cop claims he was let go because he is white, files complaint with state

  • Wendell’s old Town Hall and Police Station. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2021 1:36:41 PM
Modified: 5/2/2021 1:36:40 PM

WENDELL — A former police officer has filed a discrimination complaint against the town, claiming he was let go because he is white — an assertion the town’s Selectboard chair called “utterly baseless.”

Christopher Maselli worked for the Wendell Police Department until the town opted to not reappoint him to his position when the current fiscal year began on July 1. He filed his complaint through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a civil rights agency that was founded in 1946 to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination laws, investigate complaints of discrimination as a neutral entity, prosecute cases and offer preventative training.

A teleconference with the town, Maselli and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is scheduled for Aug. 17.

The discrimination complaint was first discussed at the April 14 Selectboard meeting, where Town Administrator Nancy Aldrich asked if members believed the matter fell under any of the legal purposes for which a public body can enter into executive session. All said they were comfortable holding the discussion in open session. Aldrich said she had a call in to the town’s insurance company “because I think these are the kinds of actions that they would like to be involved in.”

Maselli deferred comment to his attorney. According to Wendell town officials, Maselli’s attorney is Leonard Crossman Jr., though Crossman told the Greenfield Recorder that confidentiality prohibits him from verifying the facts of any case or even his clients’ identities. According to his website, Crossman spent 20 years in law enforcement, becoming police chief in Northfield in 2010. He graduated from the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover in 2019. His office is in the Orange Innovation Center.

Wendell Selectboard Chair Dan Keller said Maselli has alleged he was let go because he is white and the Selectboard members “were swept up in the Black Lives Matter movement” that was started to combat violence against Black people and police brutality. Keller said there is no merit to Maselli’s claim.

“We wanted to get rid of him because he’s obnoxious,” Keller said. “The main complaint (against Maselli) was his attitude and presentation.”

Keller said several drivers stopped by Maselli reported the officer was angry, aggressive and threatening toward them. He estimates Maselli worked for the Wendell Police Department for about 20 years.

H Harrison, executive assistant to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, said in an email that the commission does not disclose or discuss any complaints that are under active investigation.

“On average, our investigations take up to 18 months to complete,” the email states, adding that the only closed investigation against the town of Wendell is from 2004.

The Wendell Police Department no longer exists. On Oct. 15, 2020, Wendell entered into an inter-municipal agreement with Leverett for that town’s Police Department to provide services in Wendell. An initial 90-day agreement was extended through the end of the fiscal year.

Leverett Police Chief Scott Minckler said he is unfamiliar with Maselli and the complaint, but noted that his department consists of only one non-white officer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Franklin County was 93.8 percent white in 2019.

Keller said Maselli was once part of a three-member Wendell Police Department, working with Officer Anne Diemand Bucci, a white woman, and then-longtime Chief Ed Chase, who is Maselli’s father-in-law and is also white.

Keller said Maselli “started acting like the chief and he was signing his own payslips,” which Maselli gave directly to the town treasurer. Keller said Chase was told this was inappropriate, but the chief said he was uncomfortable signing his son-in-law’s payslips, insisting this was a conflict of interest. Chase agreed to the idea of Diemand Bucci signing Maselli’s payslips, but Maselli was adamantly opposed to it. Keller said he called Maselli to explain the plan but Maselli became belligerent.

“He got arrogant and abusive and insulting,” Keller said, adding that Maselli said he would not let a “subordinate” sign his payslips. Keller said he informed Maselli that Diemand Bucci was not a subordinate, but rather an equal. Keller said he subsequently filed a complaint against Maselli and later recused himself from the decision to not reappoint him.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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