Doctor calls for firing of Mass. chief after email saying he wouldn't enforce COVID-19 policies

Dr. John Sullivan, a member of the town's board of health, said he wants Chief Dennis Minnich fired for refusing to enforce policies he deemed "unconstitutional"


Michael Bonner
MassLive.com

WEST BOYLSTON, Mass. — A doctor who serves on West Boylston’s Board of Health is demanding the town fire Police Chief Dennis Minnich, after the chief sent an email claiming Gov. Charlie Baker’s “shut down” was “unconstitutional," according to the Telegram & Gazette.

The town, however, reports the matter is resolved.

The report said on May 17, Minnich sent an email to Karyn Clark, the director of the Department of Public Health in Worcester, which provides health inspectional services to West Boylston. The email read, “Karyn, I hope that all is well with you. I am alerting all of our businesses today that this ‘shut down’ is unconstitutional and illegal and that the PD will not enforce any actions by the B of H and furthermore that they should advise the ‘agents’ of the B of H to leave the premises immediately.

“The WBPD will most certainly follow trespassing policies which are to arrest trespasses after notice. Please advise your personnel so as to avoid any issues.

“These so called ‘Orders’ by the Governor are not valid nor (constitutional) and will not be enforced. Respectfully, Dennis Minnich, Chief.”

Dr. John Sullivan, who specializes in allergy and immunology at UMass Memorial and is a member of the town’s board of health, took Minnich’s email as a threat that the chief would arrest public health officials and demanded he be fired, the report said.

“I am absolutely incensed by this email and believe that Mr. Minnich should be dismissed from the West Boylston police Department,” Sullivan wrote in an email to Town Administrator Nancy Lucier on Monday, the report said.

“I find this email unfathomable for a police chief leader in a community trying to manage its way through a life-threatening epidemic,” Sullivan told the Telegram.

Minnich told MassLive he regretted the wording of the email and that what he intended to make clear was that he did not feel the enforcement of the governor’s orders on businesses were police responsibilities, but that of the Board of Health.

“The way the law is written, the Board of Health is the enforcement authority,” Minnich said. And they may ask the police for assistance. Then if they have to go back again, they have the opportunity to fine them. And then, if the businesses keeps violating, it has to go to the state because the Board of Health does not have the right to shut a business down in that capacity."

The chief said he and his officers would be available to keep the peace if any altercations arose.

Minnich says he does view the governor’s orders as unconstitutional, but that it doesn’t matter what his personal opinion is.

Upon being made aware of the email, Sullivan requested the topic be placed on the Board of Selectmen’s agenda for Wednesday night, the T&G reported.

Lucier told MassLive the matter has been resolved.

“I spoke with Dr. Sullivan and he thanked me for the action taken,” Lucier said in a statement shared with MassLive. “The Chief never meant for his words to be construed as a threat, he apologized, and he intends to support the Board of Health should they have a need for assistance with any safety concerns. I was scheduled to speak with the Director of Public Health yesterday, however, that call is in the process of being rescheduled. I consider the matter closed, and have deemed it to be resolved.”

“If I could retract that email and start all over again, I certainly would,” Minnich said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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