Selectman says he’ll consider releasing ‘Southborough Eight’ meeting minutes

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.”

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Mike Hanigan
11 years ago

Let’s all hope that the full unedited documents can be released in time for everyone to read them before the town meeting. What a crazy turn of events that someone who was actually present at the infamous Uno event, Mr Bolland, will be the deciding factor in whether these documents are release without editing! I respect Mr Bolland and and absolutely NOT implying he did anything wrong them or now. For all I know, he was in the bathroom when whatever was discussed was discussed. Its just one of those absolutely crazy twists and turns in life!

Its also so strange to see foemer BOS chair Mrs Phanuef, who abruptly and without explanation resigned, suddenly change her mind the day after she is quoted as coming out against reimbursement. Odd timing.

Our elected officials should trust the people to make informed decisions. Its interesting and wonderful to see that people supporting reimbursement and those opposing reimbursement all argue for release of the documents.

I also want to note that we have yet to hear a peep from either of the two candidates seeking the open BOS position on how they feel about this issue. Also, they have been silent on the school budget debate. Too bad.

I hope I get a chance to read those documents before town meeting so I can form my own opinion on how to vote.

Mike Hanigan
11 years ago

Thanks for correcting me on this. My gaff doesn’t need to add more confusion to this issue!

S'boroRes
11 years ago

To Mr. Rooney’s point of stating that the minutes read like an “inquisition”; I read the REDACTED version of the minutes and they read to me like the questioning and, yes, reprimanding of a group of irresponsible and unprofessional high-level employees whose actions may have endangered the town. I don’t believe it was inappropriate for a “tone” to have been taken. If this point is germane and is partially what we are being asked to vote on on Monday, then why haven’t the non-redacted minutes been released well before now? Or is Mr. Boland considering release of them now, at the eleventh hour, to combat justified claims (also made by Mrs. Phaneuf recently) that not enough information has been made availble for taxpayers to vote on this issue this year?

Have you ever heard the expression “Too little, Too late?”

billium
11 years ago

If every comment made over an afterhours beer was subject to investigation we’d all be in jail!
When confronted by lawyers you need a lawyer to have any effective communication. Lawyers use a language and come to conclusions that in many instances is difficult for a lay person to understand. These accused individuals needed a level playing field and were justified in fighting fire with fire. If the town felt lawyers were required for this frivolis investigation than it should be obligated to pay for all of them.
We have a $40 million plus budget to discuss Monday night and there are some real decisions to be made.
Hopefully we don’t waste everyones time hagglling over a minuscule percentage of that budget.

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