Earlier this week Selectman Bill Boland said he would consider releasing a “less redacted” version of the minutes from a key executive session held at the start of the Southborough Eight investigation. Last night the Board of Selectmen voted to do just that.
The minutes detail an often contentious conversation between the Board of Selectmen and a group of town department heads and other employees, as the board launched its 7-month investigation into comments made at an after-work gathering at Pizzeria Uno in 2009.
At Town Meeting on Monday, voters will be asked to decide whether the town should reimburse the legal fees of four employees involved in the probe. Selectman John Rooney said earlier this week that releasing the full minutes was important because it provides justification for why the employees felt compelled to hire counsel.
If you’d like to judge for yourself, you can find the minutes here.
I am embarrased as a Southborough taxpayer that this event was handled in this way. Yet I still am not sure that WE should pay the legal fees. Someone please convince me.
I’ve been in the same boat for some time Lisa. I’ve held that taking away a person’s responsibility for their own actions (including hiring their own counsel) was bad policy and frankly unjust. However, I find these minutes, particularly the exchanges which attempt to compel testimony through use of legal or pseudo-legal language and threats (see the bottom of page 5) to be a fairly convincing argument that the decision of certain individuals to retain counsel was forced on them by the action of this meeting. Attempting to browbeat people into testimony in this manner seems a significant line which was clearly crossed.
If people were forced to retain counsel by our actions of our town, we should pay for that counsel. These minutes seem to indicate that such is the case.
Thank you for posting the less redacted minutes. When I read them, the top of page 5 indicates that Acting Chief Moran’s prepared statement was written into the record and “A true and accurate copy of the Statement of Interim, Chief is attached hereto.”
Do you have that prepared statement? It was not attached to the released minutes.
This whole thing is starting to make sense. I wasn’t at this meting :), but let me throw out my take on what is the likely start of the whole Interim Chief discussion and NONE of this should be construed as anti the Interim Chief. As I see it, she did nothing wrong
For the Spring 2009 town meeting, the Interim Chief initially asked for 2 new police cars. The BOS and Advisory recommended only 1 new car. DPW also got fewer pieces of DPW equipment than they wanted. That’s what town meeting voted.
Link to town meeting fall 2009:
The special town meeting in the fall of 2009 was primarily to vote to buy the new ladder truck. Town department heads were initially told they could not request additional articles for equipment. The BOS later allowed the Interim Chief to submit article 7 requesting to replace the older car she was driving because “it drove like a dog sled.” (check the video – she was describing how badly it handled.) The BOS split 2:1 in favor of the new chief’s car. Town meeting voted 139:6 in favor of the new car.
Some of the other department heads who also wanted to submit warrant articles were told by the BOS they could not submit them and were surprised to see article 7 for the Interim Chief’s new car.
Over a few beers and pizza, I’ll bet the Chief’s dogsled comment came up in conversation as well as the “she gets what she wants” comments. Slurs??? Give me a break. It sounds more like jealousy to me because the Interim Chief was able to make her case for a new car while other department heads were unable to advance their warrant articles. In fact, if you look at the minutes when the BOS selected Jane Moran as the Police Chief, one of the reasons Mrs Phaneuf stated she supported her was her ability to move 2 warrant articles through town meeting.
This whole investigation by the BOS reminds me of the scene in Animal House when the fraternity learns they have been on double secret probation for a whole year.
Stupid comments? Maybe. Free speech? YES!. Worthy of a very hostile interrogation by the BOS on Oct 22, followed by 8 months wondering if they would lose their jobs and incurring legal fees? NO!!
This was nothing more than a town employee who was leaving town who started this whole mess by running to the principal (the BOS) because the children were not playing well in the sandbox. Once she spilled her guts, she couldn’t stop the whole mess she started.
Mr. Rooney has read ALL of the documents. He is a partner in a large Boston law firm. HE is also a former prosecutor. He was not involved in this mess in any way. He says the meeting was held illegally. That’s good enough for me.
Pay the legal fees, chalk this whole event up to experience and put this behind us.
Does anyone else besides myself realize that a member of the Police Chief Search Committee and a Candiate who made the finalist list a day later were also present? That does not scream fair process to me. And Mr. Boland, who I have alot of respect for, did not use the best of judgement in meeting with Vera and Jean prior to the meeting. Is he not an elected Official of our Town? There is never a place for backdoor dealings in a fair process. Especially as Mr. Boland was not present when the comments were made. He could have voiced his disapproval of the process at the meeting which he did, but never should he have met behind the scene to leave the appearance of secretness.
And I have to ask if we have now opened the door for a potential lawsuit as Ms. Michanowicz specifically asked if these minutes would be made public and was told twice they would not.
I would love to have the opportunity to not have to answer tough questions that my boss asks me, but I would lose my job. Yes, we all say things we probably should not and we can chalk it up to a moment of jesting outside of work, but these are people that used poor judgement in a public place and with a person that was competing with the interim chief for a positition. Do I think they should lose their jobs, no but should they have been written up, absolutely.
They also did violate the code of conduct policy I might add. They chose to bring in legal representation instead of answering questions, do they know what the outcome may have been if they just answered the questions? If they feared it would have been negative then they know they did something wrong.
I was all for paying the bills until I read the minutes and now as my Mother always said “We live by the consequences of our actions” and I will not support paying this.
Missing the Point-
You incorrectly stated “Does anyone else besides myself realize that a member of the Police Chief Search Committee…” was present at the meeting. The town committee member present at the meeting was from the Facilities Committee.
Missing the Point,
You also incorrectly stated that one of the finalists in the Police Chief was at the meeting. That is also incorrect. The four finalists were: Interin Chief Jane Moran, Holden Lt. David Armstrong, Westfield Lt. Hipolito Nunez and Framingham Lt. Paul Shastany. None of them was at the meeting.
You are correct Only in… no member of the Police Chief Search Committee was there but a member of the BOS was and that was the Board making the final selection. Also correct, the person to whom Missing the Point refers was not a finalist, he was a condidate for the position who did not make it to finalist, but was, I believe, still being considered for the position at the time of the Unos incident.
My you are a vast knowledge of information about this, I must ask have you been privy to minutes or information that the rest of us have not? If I am incorrect in my reading of the redacted minutes, then I stand corrected. But on Page 5, 3rd and 5th statement of fact are regarding the competing candidate. I quote: 3rd statement of fact: “At the time of the gathering at Pizzeria Uno’s, _____ was competing with Interim Police Chief Moran for the Police’s Chief Position.” 5th Statment of fact: “The Police Search Committee interviewd seven candidates including __________”. If the finalists were not announced until the next day then at least a candidate competing was there and whether a finalist or not it does not lead to a fair process and does not absolve the bad judgement used.
Only in Southborough,
In reading my last comment this morning, the start seemed a little “snarky” and I am sorry for that. We all feel very deeply about this and must be respectful of opinions different from our own. Great debate makes us better informed and a stronger Community.
How could anyone read those minutes and have any doubt in their mind that all four employees walked into the room intending to hire lawyers? We also know, because the attorney himself told us, that two of the four had already consulted with their attorney prior to the meeting. What this appears to boil down to is that the BOS informed them via an unemotional and very fair email that they were going to be questioned about unprofessional behavior which may have occurred on the night of special town meeting at Pizzeria Uno. They consulted with a lawyer and formulated a strategy. They (which now appears to include Mr. Boland) chose or were advised to make no objections prior to the meeting, enter the room, be uncooperative and instigate a confrontation. End of story.
The real shocker in the new version of the minutes is that it now appears that not only was Mr. Boland part of the original incident, but that he may have also chosen to time his revelation of that fact to happen during the executive session and in front of the employees. Was this intended to catch the other two BOS members and town counsel off guard? Did he really meet with employees the morning of the executive session for a “strategy meeting?” Was this the reason the BOS’s intended 7-day start-to-finish process turned into a 7-month investigation? Wow!
Some people appear to be sticking to the opinion they formed a year ago when only one side of the story was being told. As more and more information becomes public it becomes clear that there was more to it than that.
Despite the fact that this information should have been released earlier than the Friday before Monday’s Town Meeting, and the fact that the full 140-page report by the independent investigator still hasn’t been released, at least this additional information has been released.
Furthermore, these minutes reveal some very important information.
First, these minutes make it very clear that the BOS DID NOT “launch its 7-month investigation,” as has been stated above and by several seeking to lay the blame on the BOS for this. The minutes show that Mr. Giorlandino’s first statement after the 10/22/09 meeting was called to order was “This is a fact finding meeting wherein no decisions will be made tonight. THE DECISION WILL BE MADE ON THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, AT 6:00 PM AT ANOTHER EXECUTIVE SESSION MEETING.” (caps added by me for emphasis). This makes it VERY CLEAR that the BOS intended for this to be resolved in 7-DAYS, not 7 months. People favoring reimbursement have said that the BOS should have brought everyone together to discuss the situation and resolve it in a respectful manner. The minutes indicate to me that that was just what they were trying to do.
It appears that it was only after receiving information that had initially been withheld from them by one of their own members, that they were forced to pursue another course of action (more on this in the final point below).
Second, some have stated that the BOS ‘waited a month’ after the initial incident to call an emergency session. These minutes also show that this is not the case, and that the BOS acted as timely as they could. The minutes show that, while the original incident happened 9/29/09, the BOS was made aware of it on 10/19/09, and the executive session meeting was held on 10/22/09, THREE DAYS later – very timely, in my view.
Third, to those who may initially feel that an emergency executive session was unwarranted, consider the situation the BOS was in. When a candidate for a high-level public job that is being filled through a public selection process submits a complaint that they have potentially been maligned in a public place by high-level employees of the town, in front of a subordinate who was also a competitor for the position (as stated in the minutes) and others they would have to work with, right in the midst of the selection process, a quick response is necessary. The minutes also indicate that the BOS’s instincts were further justified, when it was disclosed to them at this executive session that one of their own members, Mr. Boland, who would be a part of the selection process, was there as well.
Once again, this wasn’t just people ‘blowing off steam about their boss’ as often happens – this was potentially putting the town at risk of a lawsuit related to unfair treatment during a public position selection process.
Fourth, several people supporting reimbursement, including some who were there, have disingenuously claimed they were ‘blindsided’ about the nature of the meeting. The minutes indicate that these people were sent an email the day before the executive session that described that it was about the Uno incident, that their attendance was mandatory, and that Town Counsel would be present. Ms. Kitchen, one of the people in question, was the person who SENT the email to the rest of them, and as stated in the minutes, made no objection to the BOS about the meeting prior to walking into the meeting. How could they have been ‘blindsided’?
Fifth, I disagree that these minutes support a ‘justification for why the employees felt compelled to hire counsel.’ It seems clear from the minutes that these employees intended from their first notification of this meeting to hire counsel and to not cooperate – in fact, there is indication (and discussion in the minutes) that some of them had already had a consultation with counsel that morning – perhaps even being guided not to cooperate. These employees hired counsel by their own choice, and their perceived need for it was, in my opinion, not driven by actions of the BOS but by their own actions in violation of the Town’s Professional Conduct Policy.
Finally, and most importantly for those who question the length of the investigation or use that as support for reimbursement, these minutes give perhaps the best indication of why the investigation needed to happen in the first place, and possibly why it took so long.
On page 13 of the 14-page minutes (i.e., near the end of the meeting), Mr. Boland, after allowing several people of the group in question to state that he was not there at Uno’s at the time of the incident, finally admits to the BOS that he WAS there at the time. Leaving aside for now the very concerning question about why a member of our BOS would wait this long to disclose this information, and would initially allow other people involved to claim that he was not there, the way I see it, the other two BOS members at that point had a very different – and much more difficult – situation than that which they understood going into this session.
AT THAT POINT, THEY HAD A SITUATION IN WHICH MR. BOLAND, ONE OF THE BOS MEMBERS WHO WOULD MAKE THE ULTIMATE DECISION ON RESOLUTION OF THIS ISSUE, HAD ADMITTED (AFTER CURIOUSLY NOT DISCLOSING IT WHEN HE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO EARLIER) THAT HE HAD BEEN THERE AT THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT.
We do not know the details of the decision to hire an independent investigator because minutes from the 10/29/09 executive session and the full report of the investigation have not been released, but it is not unreasonable to infer that the BOS felt that due to the involvement of one of their own members in the incident, they now HAD NO CHOICE but to undertake an independent investigation, rather than an internal one (perhaps they were even advised of this by town counsel, we don’t know). And, once the independent investigation began, the timing of it was out of their hands. If they had tried to hurry it along, they would have been accused of trying to either manipulate the investigation to avoid disclosures about one of their own members, or of trying to railroad the employees being investigated.
The release of these less-redacted minutes only solidifies the position that the then-BOS acted appropriately – and possibly in the only manner available to them given the situation; that the people requesting reimbursement brought this on themselves; and that therefore the taxpayers of Southborough should not be the ones to pay for this.
Hmmm…how is it that Jane Moran was able to bring a prepared statement to a so-called “emergency” meeting? Anyone else think she had advanced notice of it that others did not? Anyone else think the whole idea of an “emergency” was a trumped up sham?
They were all notified via email the day before the meeting. And, no, I don’t think it was a “trumped up sham.” I think that Town Counsel and the BOS thought it was necessary considering the police chief search committee was scheduled to meet that coming week to compile their short list of candidates. I think, don’t quote me, that they met on the following Monday, only two business days later.
All of the participants in the meeting had at least a day’s notice, as noted in the minutes regarding the eamail notification.
That would appear to be enough time to prepare any sort of statement they would have liked to present. Instead, it appears that at least some of them may have chosen to spend their time meeting with counsel to prepare a strategy to refuse to cooperate or answer any questions.
Since interim Chief Moran had made the complaint, it’s not at all surprising that she might have a prepared statement, nor is it evidence of some gotcha conspiracy.
@Only in Southborough,
Well stated. That is by far the most concise analysis of the situation I have read to date. I agree and feel that the whole thing could have been handled differently.
As an aside, if the things I have said over pizza & beer could get me sued…I’d live in a box!
The employees were not ‘being sued.” They were being asked questions (which they refused to answer) by the BOS who hoped to resolve the incident within a week.
The greater chance of a lawsuit was the one the town could have been exposed to by the lack of professionalism of these town employees.
I have now had a chance to read the transcript (is that the right word?) which lists the give and take, questions and answers, etc during the fateful Oct emergency executive session.
I have to disagree with your use of the phrase “They were being asked questions …” to describe what is evident from the minutes/transcript. They were being interrogated. It sure looks to me like this was a very hostile event, especially when you read the initial back and forth between Boland and Giorlandino. I’ll bet the town employees heard that exchange and were terrified! I know I would have been afraid of losing my job even if I had not heard or said a word! Just being in the restaurant seemed to make them all painted with the same brush of “YOU ARE GUILTY.”
Whether anyone thinks this meeting was legal, illegal, necessary, unnecessary, or any other description in between, this was a hostile environment and the employees were scared of losing their jobs.
A very sad day for Southborough.
At minimum, all the candidates to be police chief should have been able to expect a fair and above board process of selection. The social gathering at Uno’s, which might have just been insulting with different timing, definitely called that fairness into question.
The Board of Selectmen had two choices: look into it or face clear grounds for a lawsuit. I think looking into it was the right thing to do, even if it dragged on too long.
After reading the attached minutes, I am more convinced then ever that this was no more than a personnel department issue where the worst punishment handed out would have been a warning. The tone of this meeting is embarrassing from start to finish. It is also apparent that on the advice of just the town lawyer two BOS members concluded that the meeting was legal. Since the accused were not allowed lawyers, there is no one to dispute his legal opinion.
Digging further on page 12, you can also find what passed for “disparaging remarks.” Mr Bolland describes what might have been over heard near his office, “Jane is still learning on the job….” Mr. Giorlandino then asks, “You couldn’t call her directly with your disparaging remarks.” Are you kidding me? If what Mr Bolland said was disparaging, is there one innocent person in town?
I am voting to pay the legal fees. It is my hope this debate is short so that the town can be sparred further embarrassment.
1. Mr. Boland does not have an office at the Town House.
2, Town Counsel is exactly who the BOS must go to for legal decisions. We pay him over $100,000 per year to help the BOS best represent our interests. Are you implying that anyone in that room was better qualified then he was to make that call? Incidentally, where IS Also Cipriano in all of this? The Emergency Executive Session, one can only surmise, was at his direction. No?
3. The “accused” were neither the “accused” nor denied lawyers at any point. They had consulted with their attorneys and could have had them with them if they wanted to. The BOS tried to give these people an opportunity to tell their side of the story and they instead got hostile and insubordinate. To “Missing the Point’s” point, why didn’t they just answer the questions? The thing would have been settled in a week.
I find what these employees and Mr. Boland did FAR more embarrassing that how town counsel and the other two BOS acted that night. The former seem calculated and to be acting with malice, the latter were caught off guard, rightfully disgusted and lost their tempers. I don’t think any of you who seem to think you would have acted differently can be sure you wouldn’t have lost you composure in that situation.
The BOS has learned a valuable lesson, the employees, obviously, have yet to do so.
I do not support reimbursement and feel that it will set a dangerous and costly precedent in our town. My hope is that voting down this proposal will send a message that we as a town value professionalism and integrity. We require it from our emplyees; both those we have now and any who might be considering working for our town in the future.
Opening Meeting Law allows for Executive Session as per below.
To discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual. The individual to be discussed in such executive session shall be notified in writing by the public body at least 48 hours prior to the proposed executive session; provided, however, that notification may be waived upon written agreement of the parties (Mass. Attorney General Web Site).
Mr Bachrach states that the Executive Session was an emergency meeting therefore the 48 hour notice was not necessary “especially because: This is an emergency fact finding session relating to the Interim Chief’s complaints.”
I simply cannot figure out why this constituted an emergency meeting where the parties involved could not be given 48 hours notice as the law states above. In addition, two BOS members could have used the additional time to cool off and maybe handle the meeting with a little more decorum.
To make sure I answer question directly: No, we are not reading the same meeting minutes.
i do not support reimbursement. what i support is getting rid of 6 studies a week for the incoming 6th graders at Trottier which if you do not take an instrument/chorus you have— you could use that money that you would use for reimbursement for a cool class like greenhouse technology–what an atrocity this entire situation has been and what shame it brings to the town
get yourself to Town Meeting tonite!
As we are in an evidenciary discussion here, I would like to see the following:
1. The evidence considered by Special Town Counsel in support of his decision that an emergency was present which by statute negated the need for the usual notice and opportunity to be heard. My reading of the minutes indicates a conclusion that an emergency meeting was justified. What were the evidenciary considertions considered in support of his legal opinion?
2. What evidence exists in any official record that there was a finding of wrongdoning by any of the employees? Wrongdong in this context should be a juxtaposition of a agreed upon (and codified) standards of conduct, together with findings of fact to warrant a reasonable person, by at least a perponderance of the evidence standard that the codified standards of conduct were violated. There is no such finding, in fact my understanding is that the full report makes findings of fact and conclusions to the contrary.
3. Considering the absence of this evidence, the town meeting should, in a fair,impartial and unemotional manner consider whether it is a sound business practice to reimburse these employees. The standard for consideration should be whether such reimbursement advances the best interests of the Town.
4. This is rational problem solving at its basics. There is no evidence which has been released to support any violation of codified standards of conduct. The Executive session minutes, which are, by statute, subject to release when there is no longer a need for them to be withheld provide an invaluable insight to the decision making process.
To your first point, I agree. However, I also believe that Special Town Counsel was just filling in for Town Counsel that night, although it is quite possible that he agreed with Town Counsel’s opinion on this. I would like an answer to this question from Town Counsel too. It is kind of conspicuous that no one has heard from him on this matter.
To your second point, the executive summary of the invesitgation clearly stated that the employees were in violation of the Town’s Professional Conduct Policy. It also said
“Much of the angst over the October 22, 2009 meeting could have been avoided had appropriate administrative persons timely expressed their concerns over the purpose and scheduling of the meeting.” “Appropriate administrative persons”, maybe like the Town Administrator?
I think you mean to imply that our Professional Conduct Policy is not “codified” enough to be enforceable Interestingly, it was written BY the current Town Administrator and approved by Town Counsel. It was also reinforced by long mandatory training seminars. It’s language, intent and spirit are all very clear to me, many other residents and Attorney Lampke It was violated by these employees. Perhaps the full report says more about this. It would .be good if we were permitted to read it.
I can’t help but think there are years of poor history between the various groups and/or people involved in this drama and this was the culmination of that. How else did this get out of control so fast and for so long? Why would this meeting be so acidic right from the get go?
I don’t know if it is fair for the tax payers to have to pay for the inability of these people/groups to treat each other respectfullyand fairly….from both sides.
There really are only two decisions on this issues that would seem to make any sense. One, to deny reimbursement, the other to postpone until you get more information such as full, un-redacted copies of the legal bills and to draw up a legal document bringing this to closure. None of which have been done.
Many good points have already been made here explaining why reimbursement should NOT be made. Common Good you do a nice job of putting things in perspective. I am just going to add that, I believe a legal receipt shows that these four actually met with counsel PRIOR to the BoS executive session meeting and would explain why they answered the questions the way they did. This was a CHOICE that was made and absolutely added to the length of this whole debacle. Once the BoS found out what had happened, they may very well have merely sent the staff back to ethics retraining, and have had that be the end of it. Why, at that point were the four thinking they were in jeopardy of losing their jobs?? They were given no reason what so ever to think this!
We should not be responsible for their choice to have retained counsel especially when at this point it clearly was not warranted. It is clear that the Mr Giorlandino wanted this resolved and was blind sided by the tenor that was set by the employees.
As for notice of the meeting, Jean Kitchen posted it and absolutely knew, not only what it was about, but also that it was posted in a timely and legal manner. As mentioned, an email had gone to all involved as to what the executive session was about.
I am not in favor of the reimbursement, but if you still are, would you pay a credit card bill if half of the charges were blacked out? As was mentioned by Ms Phanueuf, some of the consultations were done during work time. Should we be responsible for that? If you remember, the former employee was under investigation by the state attorney general’s office for violation of open meeting law. We did not know it at the time, but she did. Did any legal time involve discussion regarding this? I would think that even those who support reimbursement would want to see these amounts deducted from the total, no? Then finally, there would have to be a document of some sort to be signed by all involved, included the town, to be reviewed, possibly drawn up by town
Counsel, bringing this to an end. All reasons to postpone, until it can be done right.
A few asides, Mr Giorlandino is also an attorney, and I think was quite reasonable in this meeting.
Also, the fiscal situation the town is in should have no bearing on this as has been mentioned in a couple of posts.
If Mr Boland were professional and understood ethics, he would recuse himself from warrant Article 20 tonight. (Point of order even.) But then that would not leave a quorum on the BoS to bring it forward would it? It would have to go to Article 34 only.
This is all a matter of what is right and doing it the right way.
I have a question: Is it against the law for town employees, when in a social situation, to complain/vent/talk about people they work with or for?
I am not trying to antagonize anyone by asking this. I am asking the question because after reading through a few blog posts on this topic and the meeting minutes, I don’t understand why there were any legal issues.
This is incredible. I can’t believe that almost a year later, I’m actually reading the minutes – albeit redacted in parts. I thought they’d never see the light of day. I tried my hardest to get these – I really did.
I’m almost 99.9 percent sure that I know the names of the persons blacked-out in this report. Unreal.
THANK YOU for your efforts to uncover Unogate! You and Susan Fitzgerald performed a great service to this town. A wise person once wrote something like Sunshine is the best disinfectant.