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Reason for changes unexplained

UPDATED Sept. 16: Town Animal Control Officer Diane Welch, on administrative leave since July, returned to work Aug. 31, but where she works has changed.

She is no longer at police headquarters, at Mystic and Summer streets, but is working under Health & Human Services, at 27 Maple St. A resident told YourArlington that she saw Welch this week in the revamped community center. Others posting to the Arlington List Facebook group Sept. 13 say that the site of Welch's job has changed.

Police Chief Juliann Flaherty and Christine Bongiorno, Arlington's director of health & human services, were asked Sept. 13 to confirm these claims and to explain the reason for the changes.

Administrative explanation

Bongiorno responded Sept. 14 to explain the administrative changes, but not the reason for them.

She wrote: "At this time, HHS [Health & Human Services] will house the ACO [animal-control officer] and provide direct supervision to the position.

"The budget and infrastructure that supports the ACO will remain under the Police Department, but the day-to-day management of the role will fall under HHS in an effort to streamline the specific duties mandated by law for the ACO to complete."

All calls for service related to animals will continue to go directly to the Arlington Police dispatch, at 781-646-1212, she wrote.

Additionally, she wrote, residents can visit the ACO website for more nonemergency type of information, adding that the site is in the process of being updated.

"This transfer is still in process," she wrote, "and we are working to manage this transition. All animal calls are being managed and more information will be provided to the community once the new site is up and running."

'Personnel matter'

YourArlington has followed up, asking for the reasons behind these changes. Because Welch's leave was viewed as a personnel matter, officials to date have declined to spell out the reasons for the leave or for the return. Welch has declined to comment for publication.

That stance continued Sept. 15, as Bongiornio wrote: "Unfortunately, I cannot speak to the why, as this is a personnel matter."

On Sept. 12, Flaherty told YourArlington that Welch's duties remain the same, but she did not mention that her work site had changed.

The issue went live on social media July 8, when some posters claimed without evidence that Welch, a popular figure in Arlington, had been fired or had been laid off. Both were untrue.

Flaherty, who had been on vacation at the time, confirmed July 18 that Welch had been put on paid administrative leave.

Rosalind Shaw, an Arlington resident, shared a letter to the editor of YourArlington that appears to express some of the views of many in town. It said, in part:

“For as long as she has been in Arlington Police Department, Officer Welch has been a stellar ACO. Arlington’s residents love her for the combination of knowledge, skill, courage, compassion and integrity she brings to her complex job ....

“I hope that APD can work with her to remedy any issues they have seen with compassion and without double standards .... Diane Welch is a treasure who deserves the full support of APD—financial, administrative and technical. And we, the residents of Arlington, deserve the kind of ACO she is.”

Issue reemerged twice

The issue has reemerged twice since July, both times on the Arlington email list. In August, posters called for support for Welch, and comments backing her flooded in. That month, YourArlington agreed with one of the posters to publish statements of support if any could be provided for publication so long as a supporter provided a full name; the editor received no statements.

On the Arlington List Facebook group Sept. 12, a resident asked for an update about the matter, and this led to publication of a report later that day about Welch's reinstatement.

Select Board member Diane Mahon reported that Town Manager Sandy Pooler had told her that Welch "has returned to duty and will receive animal calls through Police Dispatch. She will start taking animal calls this week."

ACMi News Director Jeff Barnd reports:

Sept. 12, 2022: Animal-control officer back on job after leave

July 18, 2022: Animal-control officer on paid leave, chief confirms

Oct. 8, 2019:Welch shares state's top animal officer award for 2019

This news summary was published Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, and updated the same day, to add a response from Bongiorno, then updated Sept. 16, 2022, to add an ACMi News video.