SWL: Resident files claim against BOS for Open Meeting Law violation and calls for rescinding Town Administrator’s raise

by beth on January 16, 2015

Southborough Wicked Local reports that resident Desiree Aselbekian has filed a complaint with the state’s Attorney General’s Office. In it she accuses Southborough’s Board of Selectmen of violating Open Meeting Laws.

Her claim is based on the behind-closed-doors raise awarded to Town Administrator Mark Purple. In the complaint, Aselbekian calls for the raise to be rescinded.

At the BOS’ December 16 meeting, BOS Chair Bill Boland reported that Mark Purple received a positive evaluation. Boland stated:

The board completed a review of the Town Administrator performance evaluation with the help of Mr. Millholland of the Personnel Board, the same way that this has been done for several years now and we found an overall above expectation performance by the Town Administrator. . .

He then asks Purple,

Do we need to vote to accept the recommended increase? We don’t; we’ve already done that.

He quickly summed up that the board was happy with the TA and looking forward to working with him another year.

SWL reports that Aselbekian explained that while negotiations can take place in closed session, state law requires deals for nonunion employees be finalized by voting in an open session. The former school committee member cited public votes on the superintendent as an example.

The reporter followed up with the TA:

Purple denied comment Thursday afternoon, saying the issue should be addressed “shortly.”

“Selectmen are in receipt of the complaint, and are seeking the advice of labor counsel,” he wrote in an email to the Daily News.

In the article, Aselbekian states that Boland, with 8 years experience on the board, would be familiar with the state law. She alleged the Town purposely hid the raise.

Assistant Town Administrator Vanessa Hale informed SWL that Purple’s raise was 3.5%, bringing his salary to $143,890.

The raise wasn’t mentioned in either the minutes or the Town’s press release summarizing the 12/16/14 meeting. (Nor was Purple’s review listed on any of the Personnel Board’s public agendas for 2014.)

In contrast, the Board publicly debated Purple’s increase in December 2013, settling on a 3.75%. The increase (though not a dollar figure) was well documented in the meeting minutes.

However, the 2013 evaluation followed Purple’s first full year in the position. In looking through BOS minutes for mid 2010-2012, I could find no mentions of evaluations or salary increases for previous Town Administrator, Jean Kitchen.

SWL reports that Aselbekian’s call to rescind Purple’s raise is based on more than just the process. She is also arguing to the Attorney General that the TA “had a questionable year in the eyes of the public.”

Last spring, Aselbekian circulated a petition of no confidence in Purple. The intent was to ask the BOS to have him (and the DPW supervisor) “removed and replaced by any means necessary.” At the time, Aselbekian asserted that the TA kept important information from Town Meeting voters.

The petition was in response to controversy over the DPW layoff of a cemetery supervisor.

For the full SWL article, click here.

Updated (1/16/2015 8:35 am): Clarified that the filing is with the “state’s” Attorney General.

1 Alan January 18, 2015 at 3:21 PM

His salary is $143,890.00. I hope he’s paying for his own retirement.

2 Al Hamilton January 19, 2015 at 10:55 AM

You can be assured that is not the case. Employees pay for a portion of their retirement but we contribute roughly $2 for each $1 they set aside (These are very rough numbers)

3 Seymour Goode January 18, 2015 at 7:43 PM

Gee Whiz. Seeing Purple is the new Red. Cause for gasping here.

4 Al Hamilton January 19, 2015 at 11:01 AM

I do not know if the BOS violated the Open Meeting Law or not.

1. $143k is not a crazy sum to pay someone for the level of responsibility and span of control the TA has

2. Regardless of the petition and/or the views of the electorate, the responsibility for making the judgement of whether the TA has or has not done a good job falls to the BOS. That is the job they were elected to do and the TA By Law make it clear the TA works for an under the BOS. If you disagree with their assessment the proper course is to take out papers and run on the issue.

5 Just Curious January 19, 2015 at 11:04 PM

So Desiree is at it again.

Pay attention to the quote from the Daily News “Selectmen are in receipt of the complaint, and are seeking the advice of labor counsel,” he (Purple) wrote in an email to the Daily News.

So we the taxpayers will pay more money for outside legal advice. Seems to me that we went through this a few years ago with the controversy surrounding pizzagate/marty witch hunt/police chief search committee. Yep, Ms. Aselbekian was chair of that committee back then. It seems that controversy just seems to follow her everywhere. Sad to say that some people just seem to enjoy controversy and attention.

If Mr. Boland is wrong, and it sure wouldn’t be the first time, this issue could have been resolved by bringing it up in person at a BOS meeting. I mean there are THREE lawyers on the BOS! I just watched a recent meeting online and I saw Ms. Aselbekian making a statement at that BOS meeting so she could have brought this issue up publicly, had it resolved if the BOS acted incorrectly and she still could have embarrassed Mr. Boland because the town could have seen it on cable tv and read about it on this blog and in the local newspaper.

The really sad part of this continuing soap opera is that the money we will waste on the outside labor counsel is money the town could have spent on services at youth and family services, the senior center, at the library or somewhere else where it would do some good.

Ms. Aselbekian has the right to do what she has done. I just think it was a poor way to get her point across.

6 Alan January 20, 2015 at 2:10 PM

Agreed.

Ms Aselbekian is smart and has contributed a great deal of time and effort to the town.

That being said her approaches to some issues does need some work. Maybe Dale Carnegie could help.

7 Resident January 21, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Ms. Aselbekian has every right to take the steps she took to right a wrong. If you are troubled by the associated cost to the tax payers, blame the one at fault – Bill Boland. I would hazard a guess that there was a chance to right the wrong without going to the AG, but that our chair was not persuaded to take action without the threat of involving a higher authority.

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