Wayne H. Kassotis v. Town of Fitzwilliam

Police Chief Who is Hired Under a Written Contract for a Two Year Term May Have His/Her Contract of Employment Terminated Without Being Provided Reasons for His/Her Termination and He/She is not Entitled to a Post-Termination Hearing in the Superior Court
No. 2013-594
Thursday, August 28, 2014

On April 1, 2011, Kassotis and the Town of Fitzwilliam entered into a two year contract to have him serve as the Town's Chief of Police. The contract provided that it would continue after its expiration date until a new contract had been mutually agreed upon or until either party provided notice of intent not to negotiate a renewal of the contract. Within the stipulated time for notice, the Fitzwilliam Selectmen notified Kassotis of their intent not to negotiate a renewal of the contact.  Five months later the Selectmen notified Kassotis that his employment would end on April 1, 2013.

Kassotis objected and brought a complaint in Superior Court claiming the non-renewal of his contract was in fact a termination without cause and sought reinstatement for an alleged violation of NH RSA 105:2-a.  Kassotis argued that notwithstanding the two year term of his employment contact he could not be terminated unless the Town of Fitzwilliam had cause for his dismissal.   Under RSA 105:2-a, a police chief  “. . .  shall be subject to suspension without pay or dismissal only for cause, and after he or she has been presented with a written specification of the reasons.”  The Town argued to the Superior Court that non-renewal of the contract was not a dismissal for cause and moved to dismiss the complaint.

Both the Superior and Supreme Court agreed with the Town that non-renewal of the two year contract was not a dismissal as contemplated by RSA 105:2-a.  Supreme Court agreed with cases from other jurisdictions that found that the failure to renew a public employee contract was not a dismissal from employment.

When negotiating an agreement to hire a Police Chief for a specific term, the contract should closely track the following terms.  The contract should state the beginning and ending date of the contract, and state that the contract would continue from its expiration date until a new contract has been  mutually agreed upon, unless one  party notifies the other party of its intent not  to negotiate a renewal of the contract.  A contract closely following this language that is not renewed will not be subject to the dismissal for cause language found in RSA 105:2-a.