The Board of Selectmen again last night considered whether to reimburse $14K in legal fees incurred by town employees as part of the so-called Southborough Eight investigation. While two selectmen — Bill Boland and John Rooney — said they were strongly in favor of doing so, the board ultimately deferred its decision.
“I’m in favor of reimbursement. Mr. Boland is in favor of reimbursement,” Rooney said. “The only question is the vehicle.”
At issue is the mechanism for reimbursing the employees should the town decide to do so. Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano said the claim may be covered under the town’s insurance policy. The board decided to look into that possibility before making a final decision on the reimbursement.
If insurance doesn’t cover it, the only other option for paying the legal tab would be an appropriation at the next town meeting, meaning voters would have the final say.
Former Selectman Sal Giorlandino — who chaired the board during the Southborough Eight investigation — attended last night’s meeting and read a five-page statement justifying the investigation and arguing against reimbursing the employees.
“Originally, I had not planned to become involved in the debate regarding whether the BOS should approve this $14,000.00 reimbursement request,” Giorlandino said. “Unfortunately, I have been drawn into this debate because in their June 1 letter, (Town Administrator Jean Kitchen) and (Assistant Town Administrator Vanessa Hale) made highly charged and unfounded allegations against me.”
In their letter, Kitchen and Hale said that at the October 22 executive session during which employees first found out there would be an investigation, Giorlandino’s tone toward the employees was “demeaning and accusatory.”
“It was obvious that some employees were being targeted,” they wrote.
Kitchen and Hale further alleged that Giorlandino’s treatment of employees at the meeting and the subsequent investigation “resulted in a great deal of emotional distress and a hostile work environment.”
“Simply stated, Ms. Kitchen’s and Ms. Hale’s allegations are not true,” Giorlandino said last night.
Southborough resident Irene Tibert also spoke out against reimbursing the employees. “I feel very strongly that we should not pay these bills. The employees have to held accountable,” Tibert told selectmen. “Don’t be hostage to this situation. Just because they were exonerated does not change a damn thing.”
The board is expected to revisit the reimbursement question at their meeting on July 13 after they hear back from the insurance company.