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Hancock officials oust police chief

March 24, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - Donald Gossage was dismissed Wednesday from his job as police chief of the Hancock Police Department.

Hancock Mayor Daniel Murphy said Gossage's employment with the town ended Wednesday, a little more than three months from the end of his contract.

Murphy said the dismissal was discussed during a closed Town Council session last week and voted on in an open session.

A clause in the town's contract with Gossage allowed for termination without cause, Murphy said. Murphy said Gossage was given severance pay.

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"It's something we could have done at any time," Murphy said.

Murphy, citing the dismissal as a personnel matter, would not comment on why the action was taken.

Sgt. Shawn Tasker will take over as the department's supervising officer on a temporary basis while the town decides what direction it wants to go, Murphy said.

There are only two officers employed at the department, which has one officer vacancy in addition to the chief's position.

"I'll tell you, it was a surprise," Tasker said.

Tasker declined to provide further comment, saying he has not met with town officials since the dismissal.

Gossage, who had been chief at the department for nine years, said he was told by Murphy on Wednesday morning to meet him at Town Hall. Upon arrival, he was summoned to the Chamber of Commerce office, he said. Gossage said Town Administrator Lou Close and all but one council member were there.

"The mayor read a statement, "This letter is to advise you that, effective immediately, the town of Hancock is terminating your employment ..." Gossage said, adding that no cause was given for his dismissal.

Gregory Yost, a former councilman who lost in his bid for mayor in January, said Gossage and members of the council disagreed on several town issues, though he declined to give specific examples.

"I knew there were problems with him and some council members. I'm surprised they fired him a couple months before his contract was up," Yost said.

Yost said Gossage was well-respected for his ability to obtain grants and set up youth programs.

"The town is going to lose a lot," he said.

Yost also expressed concern that half of the department's positions are now vacant.

"There's no way just two officers can give us the coverage that we need," Yost said.

Gossage declined to comment about his feelings regarding the decision.

Gossage said he was proud of the direction of the department and its achievements in areas such as community involvement and maintaining a low juvenile crime rate.

"I take great pleasure in having served the citizens of this community, not necessarily the politicians," he said.

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