NASHUA, NH – In Nashua: Three dead bodies discovered in the same neighborhood in a week, a complaint against the vacationing police chief under review by the Attorney General’s Office, one of two deputy chiefs placed on unexplained paid leave, a police nonprofit under investigation. And the mayor says she only finds out what’s going on in the police department from reading newspapers.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she could not comment on any of the investigations involving Nashua police – or the double homicide and a third death in the Gate City last week – because neither she nor the aldermen are kept apprised of even basic information that is routinely made available to the press.
“The commission and the chief and I don’t see eye to eye, but that should not diminish the work the officers do every day,” Lozeau said.
Thomas Pappas, chairman of the Nashua Police Commission, disagreed, saying Chief John Seusing routinely contacts Lozeau on important events. But Lozeau said she found out about the Attorney General’s Office ongoing review of a complaint against Seusing from newspaper accounts. The complaint alleges Seusing had credibility issues that could have affected his testimony against Michael Monroe, who was convicted of murder two decades ago.
Anthony Pivero, a retired Nashua police officer who was formerly president of the patrolman’s union, filed the complaint against Seusing after Seusing made public comments that officers with credibility issues would likely no longer be working at the department. Pivero said he remembered Seusing had such an issue earlier in his career and thought he was being a hypocrite.
On Saturday. Pivero said he received a letter from Jane Young, head of the Attorney General’s Criminal Bureau, saying he could not see the files on the Seusing review because the investigation is ongoing.
“It seems they are dragging their feet on a major issue,” Pivero said, adding it has been three months since he complained.
On June 17, William and Eleanor Grant were found stabbed to death at their home, 37 Newbury St. On Wednesday, Shawn P. Burne, 37, was found dead at his home, 41 Newbury St. Police said Burne’s death was not a homicide and is not considered suspicious.
Lozeau said she was told about the recent double homicide and third death three deaths well after the information was released to the media.
It is unfortunate, Lozeau said, but there is definitely a rift between her office and Seusing, although she made it clear she is proud of the Nashua Police Department.
“Tense,” Lozeau said describing her relationship with Seusing. “It’s too bad from my perspective.”
Lozeau, the daughter of a police officer, sees herself as pro-law enforcement. Her 14 years in the state Legislature working on criminal justice issues plus her five years as mayor should have proved that, she said.
“I think they are concerned I want to take on more responsibility with the police department,” Lozeau said, adding that is simply not the case.
Because the Nashua Police Commission, which has oversight over police officers, is one of the last – if not the last – appointed by the Governor and Executive Council, Lozeau and the aldermen only have power over the police department’s civilians and budget.
In the past, Lozeau has suggested a change to elect or appoint the police commission locally.
But she worries police officials think she wants change for the sake of change.
“What I want is positive change and local accountability,” Lozeau said. “If someone calls my office with kudos or criticism of the department, it would be nice to know the police commission, the chief and I could talk.”
That doesn’t happen now, she said.
The past week with Deputy Chief Scott Howe on paid leave has shown that Nashua needs only one deputy police chief, not two, she said.
Gov. Maggies Hassan and Seusing did not respond to requests for comment.
Pappas said Seusing would not share personnel information with Lozeau because it is confidential by law.
As to any tension, Pappas said: “Any time there is a lot going on, there’s going to be some difference of opinion… Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
The investigation into the nonprofit Nashua Police Relief Association was launched at Seusing’s request, Pappas said.
“We don’t oversee it. There were some questions raised about the organization, and the chief appropriately asked the Charitable Trusts Unit at the Attorney General’s Office to look into it..,” Pappas said.
Pappas wouldn’t say whether that investigation is linked to Deputy Chief Howe being placed on paid leave a week ago Friday, the day Seusing left for vacation.
“That is a personnel matter,” said Pappas, adding the police commission has final authority.
– over police personnel matters.
Anthony I. Blenkinsop, director of the Charitable Trusts Unit, said Friday he hasn’t finished his investigation.
Seusing told the Sunday News in late March that he asked for the probe after learning the nonprofit paid Howe to clean the building it owns on Kinsley Street with a Visa debit card instead of by check.
As to information regarding the three recent deaths, two of them homicides, Pappas said: “In a city of 87,000 people, things happen.”
Seusing could be reached if needed for emergencies, Pappas said.
The police department is well-organized, with seven captains and well-trained supervisors in the second largest police department in the state, Pappas said. It has 179 sworn officers, the second-largest department in the state, behind Manchester, Pappas said.
As to Lozeau’s suggestion that the department could get by with one less deputy chief, Pappas said: “I don’t think so. Years ago, we had three.”
It is healthy to have an independent police commission oversee police, he said.
“I don’t think that creates tension. … It has worked well in the city of Nashua for 100 years,” Pappas said.
Lozeau said it is time for more cooperation so she can keep the board of alderman and the public informed without interfering with any investigations.
“I want to make it very clear I am not interested in running the police department,” Lozeau said.
“I am looking for the police department to feel as though they are part of rest of team, that we all work together.”