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New London Police Chief’s Pension Won’t Be Affected by Circumstances of His Resignation

New London — Former New London Police Chief Dave Seastrand resigned in disgrace and his alleged behavior likely will entangle the town in costly litigation, but his taxpayer-funded pension is secure.

Seastrand was allowed to retire Wednesday as part of a negotiated settlement to bring an end to a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office. A Colby-Sawyer College student alleged Seastrand offered to drop criminal charges against her if she agreed to pose for nude photographs.

The 27-year law enforcement veteran could begin collecting his pension as early as this summer, New Hampshire Retirement System spokesman Marty Karlon confirmed yesterday.

“He’s eligible for retirement and collection,” Karlon said. “There wouldn’t be any way of taking away from it. Anything criminal, it won’t affect his pension benefit. Whether it’s job related or not, it doesn’t affect a pension.”

There is no legal mechanism to force public employees to forfeit their pension for criminal wrongdoing, Karlon said. If a worker meets the eligibility requirements — at least 20 years of service and 45 years of age — he can collect.

Pension payments are based on the average annual salary of an employee’s three highest salary years. For every year worked, an employee receives 2.5 percent of that three-year average.

For example, an employee with a three-year salary average of $80,000 and who had worked for 20 years would receive a $40,000 a year pension.

Seastrand made about $78,000 last year, Town Administrator Kimberly Halquist said.

Based on the formula, if his three-year salary average is close to that amount, his annual pension income would be about $50,000 a year.

The New Hampshire Retirement System could not provide an estimate of Seastrand’s pension, or confirm whether he has filed paperwork to begin collecting his pension, Karlon said.

Information about individuals pension benefits becomes public only when retirees begin receiving payments, which does not occur until a couple months after they officially file paperwork. Anyone filing papers this week would begin receiving payments in June or July, Karlon said.

Seastrand, who has been identified as 50 years old , could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Vermont recently cracked down on public employees who are convicted of certain crimes. In March, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law allowing judges to order public employees to forfeit some or all of their pensions in response to the conviction of a former Vermont State Police sergeant who was found guilty of falsifying time sheets.

The Vermont law applies to felonies like embezzlement, theft, bribery and other crimes that involve an abuse of public office for financial gain.

Meanwhile yesterday, the New London community digested the news of the allegations against Seastrand, who had been chief since 1996 .

The female student refused to pose for the photos during what her attorney described as three hours of coercion by Seastrand. She filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, which negotiated a settlement in which Seastrand resigned and permanently surrendered his police certification.

The student, whom authorities have not named, is likely to sue the town, her attorney Rick Lehmann said this week. Lehmann did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday.

Seastrand applied to join the New London Police Department in 1982, but the only job opening was for a dispatcher. He took the position and worked his way up the ranks, becoming a full-time officer in 1986 and a sergeant in 1990.

“We want to get away from the ‘Police are your enemy’ image,” he told a group of residents upon his elevation to chief, according to a 1996 Valley News article.

Former New London Town Administrator Jessie Levine, who is now the town manager of Bedford, N.H., said in an interview she was surprised to hear of the allegations against Seastrand, with whom she worked for 11 years.

“It’s surprising and devastating for (Seastrand) and his family, it’s devastating for the student involved, and it’s really devastating for the town of New London,” Levine said. “It’s a wonderful community where ... there’s been a lot of trust.”

Levine said Seastrand had been a devoted employee.

“He was a committed and capable police chief and an excellent officer,” Levine said. “Dave was concerned about New London’s image and quality of life.”

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.

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