Disciplinary hearing set for Bristol police chief

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard will hold a disciplinary hearing in executive session on Dec. 17 related to Police Chief Kevin Gibbs’ handling of a grant over the past three fiscal years.
At issue is a total of $9,754 in town funds that the town of Bristol fronted under the expectation that the money would be reimbursed by a Vermont Department of Health grant.
The Bristol Police Department had received the same grant for a number of years for its service as the lead agency for the Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team, known as START, in Addison County. START is funded by the Department of Health’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, which in turn receives federal funding from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The Bristol Police Department’s grant, though longstanding, needed to be renewed each year.
It recently came to light that the grant for Fiscal Year 2011 had never been closed out, and that the grant had not been renewed with the DOH for 2012 or 2013.
However, Gibbs authorized $5,839 in spending during FY2012 and $1,056 in the current fiscal year. Out of over $8,000 in authorized expenses from FY2011, $2,859 were never requisitioned from the Department of Health or refunded to the town of Bristol.
In a Nov. 7 letter, the DOH informed Bristol Town Clerk Therese Kirby that the funds were not eligible for reimbursement since its own business and sub-recipient policies would not allow it to pay FY2011 invoices in FY2013. Further, the DOH stated that it did not have a grant agreement with the town of Bristol for FY2012 or FY2013 and would not be able to distribute START funds for those years.
At this past Monday’s selectboard meeting, Town Administrator Bill Bryant said that Gibbs was in a discussion with the DOH to see if there was a chance it would reconsider.
Bryant also made note of Gibbs’ personal circumstances at the end of FY2011, including the illness and death of the chief’s wife, Becky Gibbs, in May 2011.
Selectwoman Carol Wells added that the board would need to consider whether its main concern was the money, or the procedures that were not followed correctly.
Selectman Alan Huizinga offered a motion for the hearing under Statute 24 VSA section 1932, which cites officer negligence and outlines the protocol for a hearing. The motion carried by unanimous vote.
“It’s really important that the taxpayers of Bristol are made aware of this,” Bryant said  in a Tuesday interview. “We need to be up front and say, ‘This happened.’”
According to Bryant, an auditor had deducted the deficit from an expected surplus in the town’s budget.
On Wednesday morning, Gibbs told the Independent that he was following up with the DOH to see if there was any chance that they would reconsider.
“I messed up a grant,” Gibbs said. “I’m trying to work with the health department to recover the deficit. The problems with the grant occurred in the middle of some issues, including my wife’s passing and budget issues.”
The disciplinary hearing will take place in executive session on Monday, Dec. 17. Any decisions must be made in public session.

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