Williston PD undergoing changes

Interim chief to take reins after employees break from union

Sept. 8, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

Doug Hoyt. (Courtesy photo)

Even as the officers of the Williston Police were lending manpower to flood-ravaged towns like Newfane in the southern part of the state during the past week, a wave of change was rising within their own department.

Williston town manager Rick McGuire announced on Tuesday that the town is bringing back Doug Hoyt to serve as interim police chief, effective Sept. 26, for the duration of Chief Roy Nelson’s medical disability leave. The announcement came one week after the department’s employees voted to break from the Teamsters Local 597 union and represent themselves in upcoming contract negotiations.

Hoyt served as interim chief for four months prior to Nelson’s hiring in July 2010. Nelson said on Tuesday that Hoyt’s familiarity with the department should equate to a “smooth transition” both now and upon Nelson’s return.

“(Hoyt) has insight into what’s going on in the department,” Nelson said. “And the individuals within the department are very familiar with his supervision style, which is like mine in many ways.”

McGuire stated in a release that he and Nelson “believe this move will provide the department with the proper level of management and supervisory expertise as the department moves into the budget process for next fiscal year.”

Nelson said that by maintaining regular contact with the department during his absence, he has already been able to work on several facets of the budgeting process. Nelson expects the capital portion of the budget to be completed later this week, and for the operations portion to be undertaken immediately thereafter.

“(Hoyt) is going to assist with that process, but hopefully we can get the bulk of it completed,” Nelson said. He added that Hoyt might have the task of presenting the finished budget to McGuire and the Selectboard, should Nelson not be back before then.

Of the 11 employees eligible to vote on the union issue on Aug. 30, all nine who took part in the vote were in favor of breaking from the Teamsters. The two who did not take part in the vote were Deborah Davis and Det. Sgt. Bart Chamberlain, the latter of whom said he arrived four minutes late and was told the vote was closed.

Sergeant Justin Huizenga said that the employees’ level and quality of representation during upcoming contract negotiations was their primary concern in the decision. The employees’ current contract officially expired on July 1, but continues in abeyance until a new one is negotiated.

“We feel, at this time, that we want to go in a different direction,” Huizenga said. “It seemed to me like there were too many people at the table when it came to negotiations. I’m really looking forward to having a more open dialog with the town, rather than having that third party involved.”

McGuire said the employees’ vote was not a factor in the decision to bring Hoyt back as interim chief, and that the length of Nelson’s absence was the impetus for the decision.

“We expect (Hoyt) will serve interim chief through roughly the end of the calendar year,” McGuire said. “After that, we expect Chief Nelson to be back.”

Nelson said that he and the rest of the department’s management do not fall under union representation and thus were not involved in the decision. He added that the employees have several options to weigh once they officially separate from the Teamsters.

“Once the decertification process becomes final, they will need to decide how they want to move forward — with a different union, or with employee representation,” Nelson said. He added that the switch to another union would likely require a one-year waiting period, meaning that the employees are likely to negotiate a new contract themselves.

Huizenga said the employees anticipate that being the case, and plan on exploring other representation options after the new contract is negotiated internally. Teamsters Local 597 president Duane Messier did not return repeated calls for comment.

Nelson said that the appointment of Hoyt as interim chief was “pre-planned out,” as a step the town would take once Nelson went on long-term disability for his treatment for cancer.

“We talked about it, and decided it was only fair to bring (Hoyt) in on an interim basis,” Nelson said.

In taking over the Williston PD in April 2010, Hoyt replaced Sergeant Chamberlain — who had served as acting chief before being placed on administrative leave on March 18, 2010, following “allegations concerning the exercise of judgment.” No details about those allegations were ever provided to the public.

Hoyt previously served as chief of the Montpelier Police Department for 27 years, before retiring in 2008. Hoyt also served as Montpelier’s Emergency Management Coordinator and managed the then-fledgling Emergency Dispatching Service for central Vermont, which provides services to 14 communities.