Selectman defends investigation of town employees

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Sal Giorlandino has responded to the recent disclosure that the board launched an internal investigation of several town employees last fall. In an email sent this morning, Giorlandino said selectmen voted unanimously to initiate the investigation, and that they were required to do so under the town’s professional conduct policy.

Giorlandino said they expect the investigation to wrap up soon, and a report will be issued to the Board of Selectmen. No word on whether the report will be made public.

Here’s the full text of Giorlandino’s email.

I am writing in response to an article that appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on April 17th or 18th that reported that the Southborough Board of Selectmen was conducting an internal investigation of several Town employees.  From April 16 through April 24, I was in Washington, D.C. and Maryland with my family, visiting potential colleges for my oldest daughter. As a result, this has been my first opportunity to respond your inquiries regarding the MetroWest Daily News article.

I greatly appreciate the concerns of Southborough residents and their desire to learn more information about the matter.  Due to the fact that the internal investigation is still ongoing, I can only provide the following information at this time:

By a unanimous vote of all three members of the Board of Selectmen (Bonnie Phaneuf, Bill Boland, and I), the Board initiated the internal investigation in November 2009 after receiving a complaint from a Southborough employee regarding purported actions of several Southborough managerial employees.  The Board was required to initiate the internal investigation under the Town’s Professional Conduct Policy.  The purported incident also occurred just a few months after the Board of Selectmen and Southborough Town Counsel had conducted a training or Management Summit for Town managerial employees and heads of boards and committees on various legal topics, including individual and municipal liability.  To ensure a fair and impartial investigation, the Board unanimously appointed attorney James B. Lampke to conduct the internal investigation.  Mr. Lampke is a highly respected attorney who has served as town counsel to several municipalities, and is experienced in this type of investigative work.  Regarding Mr. Lampke’s investigation in the Southborough matter, it is the Board’s understanding that the investigation will be concluded in the near future, and that Mr. Lampke will discuss his findings and recommendations with the Board.

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13 years ago

Finally, a few morsels for the many from Southborough who were starving for some information.

And maybe a little bit of satisfaction for those who felt there may be more to the story than some attack on Free Speech by a thin-skinned politician. Knowing that the action was requiered of the B of S by town policy makes a bit more sense.

Sal, thanks for the morsels but you need to get this thing wrapped up. This investigation into one conversation has been going on for much too long. Force some closure here.

John Butler
13 years ago

Nothing in this statement contradicts the MetroWest News story. It merely describes what followed the reported October “emergency” meeting. New information here is that there were three votes to start the formal investigation by hiring this attorney. That is bad news. We might have hoped that someone on the Board had more sense.

I know all these managers and they are very good people. Any contrary insinuation is false. They shouldn’t be in this position and the BOS shouldn’t have let this happen.

Responsibility for this mess can only rest with the Board of Selectmen, They adopted or retained this policy, they hired this person who is now at odds with their peers, they chose not to try to find some better way of resolving this. As a result we have most of our senior managers retaining counsel to defend themselves against the Town, and one unnamed person, presumably their peer, having lodged the complaint that now has the managers defending themselves. Someone on the Board with more sense would have acted earlier to prevent things getting to this pass. Actions this harsh, divisions this deep are very unhealthy for any organization. In this context it is no surprise that one of our best managers has already resigned.

If this were an aberration from otherwise sensible policies, then we might be inclined to regard it as an exception, and try to excuse it. But this followed spending thousands of dollars on attorneys, to pointlessly pursue anonymous bloggers. Months after that waste, Mr. Giorlandino was still on the blogger warpath, making statements to the press about “financial consequences” for that blogger. Please note that instead of saying that, he could have said, “I’m really sorry. I see now that was a big mistake.”

The picture is clear enough, and unchanged by this latest statement. The Town should not be where it is now, and the Board of Selectmen got us into this mess. The pattern of conduct is the thing that does not allow easy excuses.

Not So Fast
13 years ago

Southsider, are you serious? You just take Sal’s word for it? If the words of this Policy actually “required” the BOS to launch this multi-month, multi-thousand-dollar charade, I will eat my hat.

Something tells me that, whatever the policy says, it is loose language that the BOS interpreted in their own interest to justify this colossal waste of time and money and employee dignity. I will not swallow this explanation so easily, and have heard nothing to dissuade me from believing that unnecessarily thin skin did indeed drive this action.

If it’s that easily explained, Sal, why not quote the policy?


13 years ago


Please provide the Policy language that drove the B of S to initiate this action. I accepted your assertion that the Board was required to initiate its action. A very unscientific poll ( the commenters to this blog) indicates that 2 out of 3 are not so inclined.
It’s clear that many people won’t be satisfied with anything less.

John Butler
13 years ago

More bad judgment. There seems to be no such requirement in the Professional Conduct Policy as provided to me. Here is the only part of the one page Professional Conduct Policy that Mr. Giorlandino appears to be citing that has a bearing on discipline:

“Failure of an employee to behave in a manner consistent with the standards of conduct and all applicable policies may result in disciplinary action. The Town shall utilize a fair and equitable process in reviewing an employee’s alleged violation of these standards and policies, and may discipline the employee in a manner appropriate given the alleged violation.”

This language does not require that you start a multi-month process with an outside lawyer that threatens all your senior managers and makes them hire lawyers. It is shockingly bad judgment to do such a thing. Such an action is not in my opinion “fair” “equitable” or “appropriate”. (Note that if it did require it, I would say that the BOS should not have adopted such a crazy, rigid policy.) It is also disturbing that Mr. Giorlandino should now try to assert that this policy requires such a step.

13 years ago

If the action was determined by policy, why did the BOS rush the meeting and not give the required 48hrs notice for the initial meeting?

Secondly, am I reading Sal’s statement correctly, that this investigation has nothing to do with the letter that Susan received regarding releasing the identity of a blogger?

Harold Raez
13 years ago

If the quoted provision is the part of the so-called policy relied upon by Mr. Girolandino, he should be ashamed of himself. Who decides whether an employee “behaves in a manner consistent with the standards of conduct.” And, where is the provision demanding referral to special counsel and not allowing the employee to retain their own counsel? If this is the best that he can do, what a complete and utter embarassment to the town. And, he is a lawyer?

To allow the investigation to continue for as long as it did is inexcusable. Is this a person we want in the forefront leading our town? May 10 cannot come fast enough.

13 years ago

This is repulsive and offensive to any intelligent, concerned voter and taxpayer.

As Mr. Butler provides, in the below excerpt from the “Policy”

“Failure of an employee to behave in a manner consistent with the standards of conduct and all applicable policies may result in disciplinary action. The Town shall utilize a fair and equitable process in reviewing an employee’s alleged violation of these standards and policies, and may discipline the employee in a manner appropriate given the alleged violation.”

As you can see, there is no language indicating compulsion of and internal investigation. There is no such requirement or mandate, as Mr. Giorlandino asserts. The policy is purposely broad, and non-specific.

How can that phrase ever be extrapolated to require the initiation of an internal investigation? We are supposed to elect people who will represent us, not rule us. I continue to be disappointed at the lack of vision, leadership and openness from the entire BOS.

Hiding behind a “policy” that lacks specificity calls the policy into question and the action of the entire board unecessary and overreaching.

Still can’t wait to hear how much this debacle will cost us, as taxpayers!

dean dairy
13 years ago

Due to the fact that the internal investigation is still ongoing, I can only provide the following information at this time… Regarding Mr. Lampke’s investigation in the Southborough matter, it is the Board’s understanding that the investigation will be concluded in the near future, and that Mr. Lampke will discuss his findings and recommendations with the Board.

Let me guess… the investigation “will be concluded” and the “findings and recommendations” will be discussed with the Board sometime… AFTER the election.

Not So Fast
13 years ago
Reply to  dean dairy

Well, if you’re right, Dean, then hopefully Mr. Lampke will have his discussion with Mr. Rooney!

Wolf in sheeps clothing
13 years ago

If anyone thinks that for one second all of the posts and the news articles will change things……..I say NAY. Bonnie and Bill, by not saying a word, have deferred everything to Sal. Sal will do anything in his power to justify everything that has been done, no matter how many people need to be trampled in his quest to justify this mess. We have a chance folks…your vote WILL count this year, and next year as well. If you want change, then darn it, vote’em out and make change!

Kelly Roney
13 years ago

We know there was a complaint. We know the parties.

The policy is brief but broadly drawn. It’s easy to imagine a gripe session violating paragraph 2, notably this clause:

Employees and officials should respect and treat each other in a professional and positive manner.

Since we have this policy, it’s incumbent upon the BoS to determine facts in a case brought to their attention. As the executive body of the town, they alone are the body responsible for determining whether an employee’s behavior is a violation.

So, the BoS took the town’s personnel policy seriously. I can’t see an alternative. If you have a policy and then don’t abide by it, it doesn’t help you if there’s litigation. This demanded a response.

The BoS acted swiftly. I’m sure they didn’t want the investigation to drag out this long. In fact, their hasty violation of notice requirements was the worst defect of their hearing, which had to be done in executive session by law.

The BoS acted fairly by delegating the investigation to a neutral third party. Fairness is prime purpose of the policy. Imagine if the BoS, acting on its authority, took disciplinary action in defense of their controversial appointment of Chief Moran. Imagine they did this without a neutral investigation. Imagine the outrage we’d be hearing about that.

All in all, it seems to me that the BoS met its obligations rather well in this case.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

I am afraid I have to disagree.

1. The so called policy is in reality a bland, politically correct, piece of pablum that with the exception of the dress code is vague and probably designed to make lawyers rich.

2. The alleged offense did not take place during any of the Southborough 8’s performance of their professional duties.

3. I question whether the BOS even had jurisdiction over Ms. Kolias. She was employed by the Planning Board, an independent, elected body which oversees an area of town operations that are not under the jurisdiction of the Selectmen. They have no more jurisdiction, in my opinion, than they have over a teacher in the K-8 system.

4. Regardless of the appropriateness of the “investigation” 6+ months is far too long. These sorts of things happen in the private sector as well and the typical resolutions (including dismissals if necessary) happen in a matter of weeks. The goal is to get to the bottom of such an event quickly as the process creates nothing but turmoil. Leaving the “8”, most of whom are presumably innocent, twisting in the wind, is in my opinion cruel and I can only ascribe the length of the “investigation” to either incompetence or a desire to manage by fear.

So, no I do not think the BOS has met its obligations well. This entire matter has been botched at best.

Kelly Roney
13 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al, normally I find you fair-minded even when we differ. Not today.

1. So get the policy revoked! Having a flexible policy is an important tool for any organization. Calling it “politically correct” is very silly. I’m sure GE doesn’t regard its corporate HR policies as politically correct. Nor does the company I work for. Your “designed to make lawyers rich” comment is also a bit of rhetoric that appeals to the paranoid style in American politics. No one in government tries to get sued.

2. The policy, as I acknowledged, is broadly drawn. Its claims are not restricted to work hours. Faced with an allegation that it was violated, were the Selectmen just supposed to ignore it? That doesn’t seem like the American ideal of a government of laws to me. (Note: If the allegation was minor, then I might agree that this investigation was a mistake.)

3. The Southborough 7 then? Which one is Abbie Hoffman? (Kidding.) Essentially, your point may matter for Ms. Kolias (though I have my doubts about even that), but a response was required. This type of response wasn’t specifically mandated, but it was needed. Even if the BoS could not discipline Ms. Kolias if needed, she was certainly likely to be affected by the investigation.

4. I completely agree that 6 months is too long. I’d bet the Selectmen do too. But they rightly appointed a neutral third party to perform the investigation. Since there are rumors that Mr. Boland arrived at Uno’s after the subject conversation – rumors I have not seen confirmed – there is no way the BoS should have investigated when that investigation or at least appearances and suspicion might lead to itself. That’s in addition to the conflict inherent in what might appear to be a defense of their appointment of Chief Moran.

The Marty investigation was a mistake in my opinion. This isn’t – unless the allegation was minor. It’s just taking too long.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

We are agreed that the “investigation” has taken far too long. Personally I have seen far more serious investigations into on the job misbehavior resolved in a few weeks.

For the record I am not opposed to carefully drawn performance standards and having them apply to the performance of public employees. However, clarity is what is required and this document only offers vagueness in many areas.

I have a problem with the idea that we can control the free speech rights of public employees, particularly when commenting about the performance of a public official, in their off hours. This is the sort of thing that gets trotted out to bash whistle blowers on a regular basis. Does this mean for instance that an employee that is a part of a union that protests against the lack of progress in a negotiation (this happened in town a few years ago) will be hauled before an inquest? Certainly this is very public speech critical of the performance of a public official. Shouldn’t we apply this policy uniformly?

The policy purports to apply to elected officials which is clearly wrong. First the only board which this policy could possibly apply to is the Board of Selectmen. The BOS has no authority to make policy for any other elected executive in town. None!. All of the other elected executives are co equal and have the ultimate responsibility for the domains of their responsibility. The BOS cannot make policy for the K-8 Schools, Board of Assessors, Town Clerk, Board of Library Trustees or the Planning Board.

Second, the elected executives work for us, the BOS has no authority to discipline an elected official even one of their own. That is our job as voters.

I don’t even want to start picking apart the second paragraph which I consider politically correct drivel. Public employees are supposed to work for the benefit of all? What nonsense. Life is about choices and not everyone will be happy. Should we discipline the DPW because they wanted to put an water tank in a neighborhood. Clearly that failed the benefit for all criterion. Should a police officer not arrest a burglar since his arrest will not benefit him so it fails the benefit for all criterion. Could the officer be hauled before the inquisitor because he failed to benefit everyone? Yes, it is silly but that is what the policy says clearly, far more clearly than the pretext that unleashed the inquisition on the Southborough 8

I am sorry that paragraph is a mix of Vonnegut and Kafka with a dash of Marx (Groucho and Karl)

Like I said I am in favor of carefully drawn performance standards for the performance of public managers but this policy is not an example to follow.

As for changing the policy, the first step is to change the BOS on May 10.

No Sympathy
13 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

My understanding is that the policy was written by Jean Kitchen our town administrator and, interestingly, one of the people under investigation. I also believe it was written in compliance with state guidelines. Therefore your comment “As for changing the policy, the first step is to change the BOS on May 10.” makes no sense whatsoever. Also it begs the question why you, a former public official who should know better, continue to post this kind of rhetoric reinforcing the May 10 election and disseminating misleading information.

The way I see it, town employees can choose not to accept the policy at any time – they can quit and look for employment elsewhere. If there was a civil rights objection to the policy or if one or more of them believed that it violated their rights, they could have challenged it, questioned it, or simply chosen not to work for our town. Did they? Like it or not it IS the policy and they were all well aware of that fact. IF now they have gotten caught violating it, their or your claiming the policy was bogus to begin with is not a valid defense and, frankly an unreasonable argument for you to be making.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

No Sympathy –

1. If you look at the bottom of the policy it was adopted by the BOS.

2. Because we have a Town Administrator form of government Ms. Kitchen’s formal authority extends only to a few employees in town hall. The Fire Dept, DPW, Treasurer, Police Dept, Rec Dept, Youth and Family Services and others report directly to the BOS. In order for this “policy” to apply to them it had to be adopted by their supervisor the BOS.

3. So yes, the BOS approved this policy for the departments under their control I think it is reasonable to hold elected officials responsible for their performance. If you approve then by all means vote for the incumbent. I don’t have a vote in changing the policy, I do have a vote in changing those who approved it and in my opinion appear to have abused it.

4. As for the notion that meeting “State Guidelines” is proof against nonsense, your opinion of the Commonwealth is higher than mine.

5. Would you prefer that I not remind people that there is an election on May 10?

6. If you think I have been misleading please clarify exactly were you think I am in error. If I am factually wrong I would be happy to admit it.

7. I have said before that I am in favor of specific written performance standards for public employees. The fact is that the “Policy” is so vague that no one can reasonably interpret what behavior in the second paragraph will or will not get them in trouble. For example I have a hard time believing that what was reported in the paper is reasonable grounds for an investigation but the BOS did. I suspect that non of the Southborough 8 thought at the time that there was the remotest possibility of being hauled before the inquisition for what is reported to have been an off hand remark made outside of town, in a social, non work environment. It seems to me that if you are going to have performance standards they need to be unambiguous enough so they can be reasonably interpreted by those they apply to. If not get ready for lots more legal bills.

8. So, yes I do agree with you that if you have solid well crafted performance policies we can expect town employees to abide by them and meet performance goals. Then if they don’t like them they can look for alternative employment and if they don’t meet the performance goals we can help them out the door. But, fairness dictates that the performance standards be clear and reasonably achievable. I am afraid that this “policy” fails that test.

13 years ago

Nope. I do not agree.
Word is the reports in. Now what. More importantly, how much?

They could have handled this as an HR matter. No legal costs, just managers speaking frankly with their employees, laying down the law, and reminding them about the expectations of town officials.

Too much, too late. Stop turning to attorney’s for every matter. Each time, we pay. We don’t have the money!

carrie alpert
13 years ago

Really is amazing how “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. I do wonder if those in such politically powerful positions in our town realize that it is town politics and what exactly are they aspiring to do beyond the boundaries of our town? and what good will come of this mess for them in terms of that scope, Unogate will not look good for any of these players.
When i think of the legal fees that have been paid out (by us, the people who pay the taxes) i feel deflated and enraged–it actually serves one in life to not be passive aggressive and so coy when it comes to matters that need to be resolved; however, that statement is coming from someone who would not know how to be that way if i tried. Don’t we try and teach our children to mediate and work things out? I cannot help but wonder what else our town could have done with that money, and continued monies that are being spent–paid off some debt, purchased something for one of the schools or something for the senior center.

get out and vote and make the change that needs to happen!

Kelly Roney
13 years ago

Carrie, what are you talking about? There’s not even an allegation of corruption here. No one used a government position for self-enrichment. Just because you disagree with an action doesn’t make it corrupt.

13 years ago

Some thoughts:

I think the policy refers to ’employees’, not just ‘elected officials’ so i suspect it would apply to dept heads who are hired by and report to the BoS.

I think the amount of time it is taking to resolve this thing is interminable but it has been reported ( maybe rumored is the better word here ) that all the dept heads have retained counsel to represent them. If it’s not one joint counsellor, then trying to resolve anything with 6 or 7 or 8 attorneys , all representing different individuals/entities must consume time and town resources.

Considering the amount of publicity this thing has received and the number of principals involed in it, I’m disappointed that only one has chosen to provide any info on this matter. I’d like to request any or all of the others involved to speak up. There must be some public comment that your attorney will allow! The never ending and often escalating speculation is tearing the town apart.

I also think the time has expired on the newspaper’s Freedom of Information request for some accounting of the spend in this matter. Has any new information come to light as yet?

Finally, for all the commenters… maybe toning down the drama a bit is in order.

outside lookin' in
13 years ago

If the so-called southborough eight are found not quilty of doing any inappropriate, does anyone believe they should be reimbursed for the legal fees and emotional stress on the these hard working employees and their families.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago

I would be in favor of reimbursing any employee not subject to disciplinary action for reasonable legal fees subject to cap of perhaps $1000. No way on pain, suffering, emotional distress.

13 years ago

Just curious:
Do we actually know that the Department heads have all hired attorneys?
Have any of them actually commented on their emotional stress? Do we know that the questions or proceedings or whatever they’re called have become adversarial rather than simply fact-finding?

I think we all must wish for more (some? any? ) comments from the people involved.

It’s been demonstrated already that the owner of this site will not reveal blogger identities. Why can’t someone in the know provide at least some details?

Neil Rossen
13 years ago

This is more eloquent than I could be:

[Ed note: What follows is an open letter authored by Roger Challen. It is posted here with his knowledge.]

Subject: Upcoming election on Monday, May 10th

My name is Roger Challen and I am asking you to support the Town’s need for new leadership and vote for John Rooney for Selectman in the upcoming election on Monday, May 10.

For those of you who don’t know me, I have lived in Southborough for 35 years. Today I am watching this Town, which I have long served and where I have enjoyed living, get torn apart. I am a former Selectman (I did not run for re-election because of my work travel schedule), and I served on the Advisory Committee for 10 years. I currently am a member of the Personnel Board. I have personally known each of our current three Selectmen for many years. As a Selectman, I worked with Bill Boland and Bonnie Phaneuf, before Sal Giorlandino ran unopposed for this, his first term on the BOS. These are not bad people, but as currently constituted, this Board does not provide the effective leadership that our Town really needs.

John Rooney is not a politician. He is an extremely capable and experienced leader. He is honest, forthright (gives you a direct answer to a question), and will focus on things that are important to the future of Southborough. Some people are concerned that John doesn’t have the necessary experience. I can speak from my experience as a former Selectman, who has had the job… John can do it well, and better than it has been getting done.

I spent some time at the transfer station on Saturday speaking with a number of Town residents. I spoke with one person who told me he is supporting the incumbent in the upcoming election. When I asked him why, he said it is because he “wants to keep things the way they are”.

So if you haven’t been paying attention, or reading the blogs or newspapers, here is the way things are, folks:

Instead of focusing on larger issues, our BOS has wasted thousands of dollars of taxpayer’s money on legal fees… why? They were personally upset with someone who anonymously criticized their Police Chief selection process. But many taxpayers, including me, had already been openly critical of that selection process. Spending these dollars was an incredibly misplaced sense of entitlement, abuse of power, and misuse of public funds, not to mention an attack on free speech.

Then we find out that the BOS has spent thousands more of our taxpayers’ dollars on even more lawyers. The final amount has still not yet been made public. This was for the lengthy investigation of 8 employees (most were department heads) as a result of some comment(s) made at an evening get-together at a restaurant in Westborough. The incumbent in this election, Sal Giorlandino, defended the BOS action, by stating that “the Board was required to initiate the internal investigation under the Town’s Professional Conduct Policy”. A read of the policy does not support this at all. This has been an unacceptable waste of money and time, and has cost good hardworking, employees their dignity.

Clearly, the BOS handling of this matter created an intimidating work environment, not only for the department heads and employees under investigation, but for others. And this has gone on for months. We have already lost one top employee, and we may lose more.

Our excellent (now just ex) Town Planner, is no longer here as a result of this work environment. She resigned to accept a job elsewhere. She was NOT fired, as had been rumored. I am afraid more will follow her out the door. The mismanagement of this situation has caused Southborough to become the laughingstock of many residents in neighboring towns (just read the newspaper comments).

As to the big picture, every year Southborough, as a municipality, continually spends more money than we take in – we need to overhaul our thinking on this – we have no plan to deal with the continued erosion of our assets.

For the first time since I can remember, Moodys, the company responsible for determining credit ratings for municipalities, has issued a negative report about Southborough’s fiscal stability. I am told this is the warning that comes before the Bond rating downgrade, unless our Town management can present a believable plan about how we are going to turn things around. As I said above… we have no plan. If (when) we are downgraded, the interest rate at which the Town can borrow will increase, leading to higher costs (and higher taxes).

I am disappointed and outraged about all of this… about what has happened, and what continues to happen. I have spoken with other Town residents who say they also support John Rooney. A partial list of those who are endorsing him appear at the end of this email. Others tell me they would also like to support John publically, but they fear reprisals of some sort, due to the fact that they may have to appear before the BOS or one of the many committees appointed by the BOS. What kind of Town is this, folks? A closed club? What kind of Town do we want it to be?

We have a chance to make a much needed change now, and we must do it. It will have two very important results. It will repair part of the problem, and inject much needed new leadership into our executive branch of Town government. It will serve to tell the remaining two members of the BOS that the citizens of Southborough will not tolerate the kind of behavior that the BOS have demonstrated. If we fail to act now, we will sadly be sending a message to the current BOS, our Town employees, and the towns around us, that we accept and want to continue with this lack of leadership and intimidating treatment of our personnel.

How can you help…

Inform others of the issues. Please forward this email to any one you wish, especially those who will forward this again to their email lists, and if you receive the email, please forward it on – it is difficult to unseat an incumbent. Uninformed voters tend to check the first box on the ballot.

Get people out to vote – call and email your friends and neighbors… remind them the election is next Monday, MAY 10, less than a week from now.

Put up a John Rooney sign if you are willing – it will add visibility. Reply to my email address, or to, and ask for a sign (don’t forget to supply your street address) and we will get a sign out to you. And yes, we WILL take the sign off your property immediately after the election, Monday, May 10.

If you haven’t been following the issues, please read the “Path to the Problem” summary by John Butler, which appears below.

Thanks in advance for your support of John Rooney.

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