Deputies punished in election sign flap
By David Connolly, Enterprise staff writer
BRIDGEWATER — Uniformed Plymouth County deputy sheriffs twice got into a dispute with an elderly woman Tuesday over a political lawn sign for their boss, Sheriff Joseph F. McDonough, said police and the woman's son.
Diane Buron, 71, was brought to tears and started "shaking like a leaf" as four deputies surrounded her son David on the front lawn of her Oak Street house with blue police lights flashing from the deputies' car, said Caitlin Buron, David's wife.
"This is totally unacceptable behavior," said Caitlin Buron.
Diane Buron is matriarch of a well-known Bridgewater family and mother of Bridgewater-Raynham football coach Dan Buron.
On Wednesday, McDonough acted swiftly in apologizing in person to Diane and David Buron. McDonough fired one deputy, Robert Monsini, and suspended three deputies for 30 days. The suspended deputies are Walter Rawley, Evan Gurman and Gary Edelson.
"It's an unfortunate situation and it won't be tolerated," McDonough said.
"This is in violation of all our policies. We can't control all our people all the time, and when we find behavior that is wrong, there's an investigation and consequences as a result," he said.
With McDonough engaged in a heated campaign and the election less than a month away, the Burons and Joe McDonald, McDonough's Republican opponent, blasted the incumbent sheriff for the actions of his deputies.
"I hope they would take this same tack (with discipline) during any time of the year and not just weeks before the election," David Buron said.
The Burons filed a complaint with the attorney general and have consulted a lawyer about a potential civil complaint against Monsini.
McDonald, a Plymouth County prosecutor on leave from the district attorney's office for the campaign, said he can only draw one of two conclusions, "one worse than the other."
"The first is these guys are either acting on (McDonough's) orders or, second, they are out acting as loose cannons on their own and he has no control over them," McDonald said Wednesday.
According to the Burons and Bridgewater police, Monsini and a second deputy approached Diane Buron on Tuesday afternoon about a sign Monsini had placed on her lawn.
Monsini, a former Brockton police officer hired by McDonough as a deputy to work paid details and hospital inmate security, lives in a house behind Diane Buron's house, and the driveway that leads to that house runs adjacent to Buron's yard.
Monsini had put a sign on the corner of Buron's property previously, and she removed it because the sign impaired her sight lines when getting in and out of her driveway, David Buron said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Monsini, wearing his full deputy's uniform, asked Diane Buron where the sign was, got it from her trash beside her house, put it back and told her not to remove it, Buron said.
Deputy Rawley was with Monsini.
"(Monsini) claimed it wasn't her property and that (the common right-of-way driveway) was public property and that she wasn't to touch it," David Buron said. "She was quite shaken up."
His mother called police, and they told her the deputy had no right to put the sign on her property or public property, and that if he returned to call police again, her son said.
David Buron and his wife, Caitlin, went to stay with Diane during the evening.
"We didn't want to leave my mother alone," David Buron said.
At 8:44 p.m., Monsini, Rawley and two other deputies returned and demanded the whereabouts of the sign Monsini put there earlier in the day, Buron said.
McDonough identified the other deputies as Gurman and Edelson. The four work as detail officers throughout the county and for inmate security.
They work "at the will" of the sheriff, he said, and do not belong to a union.
All the county's deputies had been at a 7 p.m. uniform inspection, and these deputies usually carry guns, McDonough said.
The deputies arrived in what appeared to be an unmarked police cruiser with blue lights flashing from inside the car, they said.
Caitlin Burin called police immediately.
Police showed up and quickly diffused what the Burons called a "tense and aggressive" situation as the four deputies surrounded David Buron on his mother's front lawn.
No one was arrested and police charges are not expected, said Sgt. Chris Delmonte, a spokesman for Bridgewater police.
Dan Buron, the football coach, said he called a friend who works for McDonough, and the sheriff knew about the incident within an hour.
Dan Buron also removed a McDonough lawn sign he had at his South Street house near downtown, considered a prime political sign location.
"My concern is, are they out there bullying people at taxpayers' expense?" Buron said. "Honestly, Plymouth County sheriff wasn't a big issue in my life, but after this incident I took my sign down immediately."
"We find this thoroughly outrageous," Caitlin Buron said. "We've talked to everyone we know and we won't be supporting McDonough."
McDonald and Joe Palombo, the Kingston Democrat who came close to defeating McDonough in a hard-fought primary in September, said there have been several incidents where McDonough's deputies have done similar things.
"I'm sure this is happening all the time, but this is just the one where he got caught," McDonald said.
McDonough, after announcing the discipline and releasing the names of the deputies involved, said he intends to issue a department-wide memorandum this week to "reiterate the policies."
Those policies match state ethics laws and forbid county employees using county resources for campaign purposes, he said. That includes doing any campaign-related activity while on duty.
McDonough said he had already sent notice to his staff with a similar message earlier in the campaign. He said he is unaware of any other of his employees committing similar violations of the department policy and state elections and ethics laws.
Asked about the potential political ramifications of Tuesday's incident, McDonough said, "It happened. There's no two ways about it. We took appropriate action, and I hope people do see we took appropriate action."
McDonough also said he apologized to the Burons and hopes they are satisfied with the punishment handed down.
"It pretty much went the way I anticipated it would go," David Buron said, calling the discipline meted out by McDonough "fair."