At Town Meeting next week, voters will be asked to decide whether to reimburse the legal fees of employees involved in the so-called Southborough Eight investigation. Some of you have said before you can make a decision on the issue, information previously undisclosed needs to be released. Selectman Bill Boland said last night he’s considering releasing at least some of it before Town Meeting.
Back in July, the Board of Selectmen voted to release a heavily redacted version of the minutes from an executive session meeting held in October 2009. It was the meeting at which employees were first informed of the investigation into remarks made about Police Chief Jane Moran at an after-hours gathering at Pizzeria Uno.
While he originally voted not to release the full minutes, Boland now says he will consider releasing a “less redacted” version. He said some redaction is still necessary to protect the names of people who were at Pizzeria Uno but who were not part of the investigation.
“I’m not trying to hide anything,” he said.
Former Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf, who sat on the board during the Southborough Eight investigation, said while she didn’t support releasing unredacted minutes back in July, she does now. “At that time all the names hadn’t been revealed,” Phaneuf said. “They have now.”
Phaneuf, who opposes reimbursement, said she contacted Boland earlier this week to urge him to release the minutes.
Selectman John Rooney has supported releasing the unredacted minutes all along. He said the minutes show how the executive session “set the tone” for the investigation and provide justification for why employees felt the need to hire lawyers.
“I’ve seen the unredacted minutes, and it sounds like an inquisition of these employees,” Rooney said.
Some residents have also called for the release of the final report prepared by Attorney James Lampke, who conducted the 7-month investigation. While an executive summary of the investigation was released in May 2010, the full 140-page report was not.
Boland said he does not want to release the report because it contains “some inconsistencies.” Boland said the board at the time voted not to correct the report – something he said would have caused the investigation to drag on several more months – and to instead release the executive summary.
“The report was never finalized,” Boland said. “The corrected version was the executive summary.”
While he believes the report should be released to help the town get closure on the issue, Rooney said it doesn’t contain a “silver bullet” that would help voters decide what to do at Town Meeting.
Whatever documentation is released, Boland and Rooney have both called for a civilized discussion at Town Meeting next week.
“I don’t want people to get up there and bash these employees or our former selectmen,” Boland said. “Everyone made mistakes. The board certainly made mistakes. Some employees could have used better judgement.”
“There’s no reason for this to get personal,” Rooney said. “Either you agree that the investigation was reasonable and the time frame was reasonable, or you don’t.”
Town Clerk Paul Berry put it more bluntly at a meeting earlier this week. “If you haven’t got something good to say about someone in this article, shut up.”