Haverhill Whittles Police Chief Applicants Down to Five; Interview Panels Start Working

Initial interviews will begin behind closed doors. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill has whittled the number of candidates to be the city’s next police chief down from more than two dozen to five.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said his police chief panels will interview all five and the list of eligible applicants could still be pared down to a smaller group of finalists. The list was trimmed after city consultant Alan Gould, president of Municipal Resources, was said to have interviewed the top 10 candidates by telephone. Gould is also a retired Rye, N.H., police chief and town manager, and interim Salem, N.H., chief.

According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, which is responsible for enforcing the state’s Open Meeting Law, a preliminary screening committee may begin behind closed doors. However, the AG’s office writes, “This purpose does not apply to any stage in the hiring process after the screening committee or subcommittee votes to recommend candidates to its parent body.” If having a meeting away from the public, rules require “the chair must state on the record that having the discussion in an open session will be detrimental to the public body’s ability to attract qualified applicants for the position.”

At the beginning of the process, two internal candidates were said to be in the running for the job. In fact, during a farewell address before the City Council last night, former Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro appeared to confirm current Deputy Chief Stephen J. Doherty Jr. and Capt. Robert P. Pistone are seeking the top job. The mayor’s office would not say whether they advanced after the initial screening.

The interview panels are split between members who have previous experience hiring police and a group representing the public. The latter group just this week received its newest member, Haverhill schools’ Assistant Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling.

As WHAV reported two weeks ago, Haverhill native and former Hampton, N.H., Police Chief William Wrenn is taking on the screening task for a second time in 20 years. He served on former Haverhill Mayor John J. Guerin’s committee that hired DeNaro.

Besides Wrenn and Gould, those with police hiring experience named to serve are Haverhill Health and Inspectional Services Director Richard MacDonald who is also a former Duxbury town manager. and Haverhill City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr.

Besides Pfifferling, the panel of community members includes Kalister Green-Byrd, a former Haverhill Housing Authority commissioner and community volunteer; Lynda Brown, head of the Highlands Neighborhood Group and head of Haverhill Brightside, a community and neighborhood beautification group; Manuel Matias, representative of the Haverhill Latino Coalition; Irene Haley, president and CEO of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce; and Eliza Espinal, a Haverhill resident and volunteer assistant in the Lawrence Deputy Police Chief’s office.

DeNaro was to retire this month, but stepped down in May for health reasons and has since filed for disability with the Haverhill Retirement Board. Retired Deputy Police Chief Anthony L. Haugh has been serving as interim chief.

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