Cowardly, reckless action by Boxborough Select Board

Police chief, after 25 years on the job, deserves better

AFTER ATTENDING the October 18 meeting of the Boxborough Select Board, I am concerned about where our town is headed and who is leading.

Police Chief Warren Ryder, a 25-year employee of the town, was brought in to the meeting to “answer” unspecified allegations of “payroll irregularities.” It was somewhat difficult for him to do, and for us to follow, without knowing the specific charges or allegations, none of which were discussed in open session. Upon completing his presentation, a motion was immediately made to “refer this to the FBI for further investigation.”

Wow, really?

Also of concern: No question or comment was allowed from the public. None. This seems to be the new “public meeting” format Select Board Chairman John Markeiwicz prefers.

While I agree, and so does Chief Ryder, with the sentiment that the best way (at this point) to clear his name is via an independent investigation, that could have been easily accomplished with an outside audit of all of the town’s payroll practices – not just police but all other departments as well.

The 3-2 vote to invoke the FBI’s Corruption Unit was, in my opinion, cowardly, excessive, uncalled-for, reckless, and potentially destructive to a long-time employee’s career. Ryder now stands accused on the front page and will likely be exonerated on the back page.

Doesn’t the Select Board have anything better to do? Methinks they do. And they might want to consider that Boxborough does have a recall process.

I have read what I believe to be all (impossible to be certain when shrouded in secrecy) the materials, including those that are not being circulated or available to the public in the Select Board meeting packet. I firmly believe, after review, that there is “nothing to see here.” Clearly, some others do not see it that way, but one must closely consider their motivations. Some payroll mistakes that have already been found and corrected? Yes, mistakes can and do happen, and some didn’t at all. A disgruntled and angry former employee making allegations and insinuations unsupported by facts? Yes, unfortunately it happens every day. But I don’t see proof of anything even close to criminal or intentional here.

So why the rush, right to the top of the “corruption” ladder – the good old FBI? Either the Select Board has been watching way too much TV or its members better know something very serious that is not in those documents. Will we ever know? Who wants to wager that the FBI will not even take the case because there is no case? Or that it will take three to six months just for them to say no? In he meantime, Chief Ryder’s reputation is tarnished and Boxborough will suffer with division and infighting.

I believe one of our obligations is to protect the reputation and well-being of a loyal and proven 25-year employee. The core of our justice system is “innocent until proven guilty” and Chief Ryder has certainly earned the right to receive the benefit of the doubt, or at a very minimum fair treatment. Instead, he’s been thrown under the proverbial bus. Where is our sense of honor, loyalty, and commitment? Without that, who are we?

Meet the Author

Mark White

Member/Chairman/Former member, Boxborough Planning Board/Zoning Board of Appeals/Select Board
And, before anyone accuses me of being Ryder’s “friend” or worse, let me say we have never even had a cup of coffee together, no less a drink (though I intend to remedy that) or a dinner or any of the things we typically do with our “friends.” We are friends only in that I have known and interacted, officially and unofficially, with Warren Ryder for 25 years and he has fully earned my trust, my respect, and my full and fervent support in what must be his darkest hour.

I believe that he has served the town of Boxborough well and he deserves our support.

Mark White is a member of Boxborough’s Planning Board, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and a former member of the Select Board. His opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of the boards on which he serves.