RUTLAND - Selectman Wayne A. Walker, expected to resign after an arrest in a vice squad sting, said Monday night he will stay in office.
Mr. Walker, 61, of 176 Maple Ave., was arrested Feb. 21 in Worcester on a charge of paying for sexual conduct, as part of a vice squad sting. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf the next day at arraignment in Central District Court in Worcester. Mr. Walker was released on personal recognizance and waived his right to counsel.
According to the police report, a female police officer was working undercover around Main and Oberlin streets in Worcester when Mr. Walker, driving a white Ford F150, approached her about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 21. Mr. Walker, a former Rutland police officer, allegedly offered to pay her $20 for sex, the police report states.
In a statement he read aloud Monday night after the Board of Selectmen met in executive session, Mr. Walker acknowledged his arrest and said he had received legal advice not to comment directly about the incident.
“First, let me say that the alleged charges against me are personal in nature,” Mr. Walker said. “While highly publicized, it is a private matter for me and my family.”
In the aftermath of the charges, Mr. Walker said his initial reaction was to resign from the Board of Selectmen, “which is what most people would expect me to do.”
After “the incident,” Mr. Walker said, he discussed his position on the Board of Selectmen with his family and noted his desire to minimize publicity and exposure to the town of Rutland and his fellow board members.
Then, at the last moment, Mr. Walker said, he had a change of heart.
“Prior to making my decision final, I was contacted by numerous townspeople who offered their support and urged me not to resign from the board,” Mr. Walker said. “I was repeatedly told that the incident does not have any bearing on my position as selectman or whether I am capable or qualified to perform my duties.”
Mr. Walker said many people in town can attest to his “character and dedication” and how he has always approached his responsibilities with “honesty and integrity,” doing what he believes has been in the best interests of Rutland.
“Therefore, after thoughtful consideration and encouragement, I have decided to remain on the Board of Selectmen,” Mr. Walker said. “I do so with the hope of continuing to work together with my fellow board members and our community to address the many challenges facing our town in the future. Let my past service and dedication to the town of Rutland attest to my ability to perform as a member of the Board of Selectmen. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to serve our town for the last four years as selectman and for your support going forward.”
Before Mr. Walker read his statement, Selectman Michael S. Pantos read a statement from the Board of Selectmen that said there was no statewide law in Massachusetts for the recall of public officials, and the town of Rutland does not have a charter or special act spelling out a recall process.
“Elected officials in Massachusetts are not under the supervision or control of any town officer or employee, but rather answer directly to the voters,” Mr. Pantos said. “In the absence of a special act or charter establishing a process for recall, an elected official holds office for the duration of their elected term unless they resign or are incarcerated in a correctional facility due to a felony conviction.”
Mr. Pantos said there are statutory limitations on the town’s ability to take formal action with respect to the allegations facing Mr. Walker.
“The fact of these statutory limitations does not in any way signal that this issue is not important to the elected and appointed officials of the town, the employees of the town, or the entire Rutland community,” Mr. Pantos said. “The Board of Selectmen, of course, disapproves of any actions taken in violation of the law and calls upon the individual at issue to take appropriate action so that the town can return to the business of governing.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Pantos had said he was in favor of “disciplinary action,” adding that he believed Mr. Walker “has brought an unfavorable light to town, and it is an embarrassment to the town and people we represent.”
Before the closed-door session Monday, Leroy Clark, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, explained that the board was going to discuss with an elected board member allegations concerning actions taken by him in his “personal capacity.”
Mr. Walker recused himself from the vote to go into executive session and any votes taken in executive session on this matter.
Mr. Walker’s term on the board is not up until 2020.
Rutland Selectmen Wayne A Walker, who was arrested during a vice squad sting last month in Worcester, said he has decided to remain on the board of selectmen pic.twitter.com/ENcZXDuIpo— Craig Semon (@CraigSemon) March 12, 2018