Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus, citing “issues involving management,” demoted Damariscotta Police Chief Chad Andrews to deputy chief and cut his salary effective March 6.
The salary difference totals $8000 per year, a decrease from $54,000 to $46,000, Lutkus said in a phone interview.
Andrews has been on administrative leave since Feb. 4. Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett has been serving as acting police chief and will continue to serve as part-time interim police chief while the town begins a search for its next chief.
“The creation of this new position stems from issues involving management of the department that prompted me to take a close look in recent weeks at whether the chief had the background needed to continue to serve in the chief’s position,” Lutkus said in a statement.
“I made my decision on the staffing change after carefully reviewing the challenges the department is facing and talking with Chief Andrews,” he said. “Mr. Andrews and I have mutually concluded that he can best serve the department and the town by accepting the deputy chief position.”
Lutkus, by phone, said he believes Andrews “does not have the background necessary right now to be the chief for Damariscotta.”
The department has “issues we need to address down the road that I feel are not within the capabilities of Chad Andrews,” he said.
He declined to elaborate on any specific deficiencies in Andrews’ background or capabilities and would not discuss specific challenges or issues at the department. “It just has to do with the day-to-day management and long-term strategic planning for our police department,” he said.
The demotion follows a highly public difference of opinion between Andrews and Lutkus regarding the Damariscotta Police Department.
Lutkus and the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen introduced a town charter amendment that would have authorized them to eliminate the department and contract with an outside agency for law enforcement. Andrews opposed the amendment, which voters rejected in November 2012.
The demotion “has absolutely nothing to do with the amendment that was on the ballot or the process leading up to that election,” Lutkus said in a phone interview.
The town plans to start the police chief search soon and expects it to take about three months. Andrews will assist in the transition, according to Lutkus.
The deputy chief will work regular patrol shifts, assist in the administration of the department and serve as second-in-command to the police chief, Lutkus said.
The town will not hire a sergeant, a position that had been vacant, as the new deputy chief position “eliminates the need” for another supervisor, Lutkus said.
“The town appreciates Mr. Andrews’ previous efforts for the town during a difficult period,” Lutkus said in the statement. “Mr. Andrews helped the town transition through a difficult period following the departure of the prior police chief.”
The police chief before Andrews, Steve Drake, was placed on administrative leave by former Town Manager Greg Zinser after a dispute with the selectmen regarding the department budget. Drake later resigned.
Andrews had been the town police chief since September 2011. He has been a Damariscotta police officer for more than 10 years, including several years as sergeant, the second-ranking position in the department. He was the acting police chief from April-September 2011.