Westport Highway Surveyor Harold “Jack” Sisson entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment last Wednesday, Nov. 28, on charges including theft of town-owned equipment.
He will next appear in court on February 5 at which time his attorney, Emile E. Morad Jr., indicated that he will ask the judge to dismiss the case.
Mr. Sisson, 58, is free on personal recognizance until then but has been relieved of his town job and been ordered to stay out of the town Highway Department.
There had been talk that Mr. Sisson might not appear at his arraignment but in fact he did, letting Mr. Morad enter the plea on his behalf before Fall River District Court Judge Deborah Dunn. Mr. Sisson is charged with misdemeanor larceny, receiving stolen goods and conspiracy.
The arraignment is the second in the case of town highway equipment trucked away from the town yard.
The previous week, department mechanic John Kennedy, 40, also pleaded not guilty to similar charges. He also remains free pending a Feb. 5 pre-trial.
The charges stem from the discovery by Westport Police that a truckload of items belonging to the Highway Department were about to leave the town yard (next door to the police station). The driver, who works for 146 Supply Inc. of Millbury, said he had already taken a shipment earlier in the day and led officers to Mr. Kennedy’s 174 Forge Road house where items were found beside a barn and behind bushes, Det. Jeff Majewski said.
The items included a Cub Cadet tractor worth $1,700, mowing equipment, metal ramps, weed whacker and tools that have since been returned.
The defendants told police that the items were to be traded to 146 Supply in return for discounts on future town purchases.
Mr. Kennedy landed an additional larceny charge when police say they discovered that he had used town funds to purchase lawn tractor parts that fit his tractor, not one owned by the town.
Switch job to appointed?
For the time being, the Highway Department is being run by foreman Chris Gonslaves ion partnership with Town Administrator Jack Healey.
Complicating matters is the fact that the highway surveyor job is elected. The Board of Selectmen has already discussed proposing a change in the position from elected to appointed. Any such change would need voter approval.