The Board of Selectmen have requested the reinstatement of the town’s Cemetery Supervisor at same level, paygrade, and similar job duties.
The board acknowledged communication problems about the layoff. But they refuted charges that there were any violatations of Open Meeting Laws. They also heard and dismissed the petitioned request to remove the Town Administrator Mark Purple and Department of Public Works Director Karen Galligan for their roles in the communications and layoff.
Tuesday’s meeting opened with a continued discussion of the layoff. They spoke on:
- Investigating the miscommunications
- Rectifying the layoff
- The resident petition to dismiss Purple and Galligan
Investigating the miscommunications
Selectman John Rooney shared with the board and public his investigation of the communications around the layoff.
Rooney said he was convinced he had collected all of the documents. He shared a timeline of the communications. (Click here to open.) He saw no signs of deception.
Instead, Rooney believed that the BOS simply didn’t understand what outsourcing cemetery maintenance would mean. The documents Rooney shared include his questions on those points that were never answered and which he didn’t follow up on.
Rooney also believes that Purple and Galligan have been honest about the timeline of when they learned that a relied upon retirement wouldn’t go through.
In retrospect, Rooney saw “holes” in the communication between the board, the Town Administrator and DPW. Rooney said that board communications need to be “tightened up”. He stated the BOS is planning a retreat to discuss best way to communicate going forward.
Rectifying the layoff
The board was united in their desire to reinstate the Cemetery Supervisor. She has been on leave since May 14th. The board unanimously asked the DPW to continue negotiating with union and employee to restore her position as of July 1st.
The supervisor would resume duties at the cemetery. She would not be moved to the transfer station as previously planned. Selectman Bonnie Phaneuf explained, “The scope of the [outsourced cemetery maintenance] contract has been reduced. The [cemetery supervisor’s] job description changes are minor in my opinion”
The town has identified funds in the DPW budget to restore the position. Galligan has worked with union to revise job description, since landscape maintenance is being done by contractor.
Rooney confirmed the opinion of Advisory Board Member John Butler that the layoff wasn’t legal. By law, the BOS needs to approve DPW hiring and firing.
The resident petition to dismiss Purple and Galligan
Desiree Aselbekian had submitted a request to discuss a petition, signed by around 200 residents, which states:
we have no confidence in the Town Administrator or the Superintendent of Public Works. It is a non-binding petition that we will submit to the Selectmen to let them know we do not have faith or confidence in these two employees and we want them removed and replaced by any means necessary.
Initially, resident Desiree Aselbekian was informed by an email from Chair Bill Boland that her petition would not be heard by the BOS:
When I polled several members of the Board, they indicated that they had reviewed your correspondence presented to them at our meeting on May 13 and appreciate your concern for the Town. They also indicated that they had no interest to place it on our next or a future agenda for discussion at one of our meetings. Therefore it will not be scheduled for discussion at a future meeting.
Rooney claimed that he must not have been clear in his answer to Boland on the question. Selectman Paul Cimino wasn’t contacted on the issue. And Phaneuf had communicated through Purple that it was a decision best made by the other selectmen.
According to Phaneuf, she mistook the letter distributed at the end of the May 13th meeting to be a copy of the one provided before the meeting. Therefore, she didn’t have chance to research and prepare to vote. But, she stated that on surface she also believed that the letter raised the bar of what was expected for employees versus a year ago.
Both selectmen Paul Cimino and Rooney supported residents right to be heard while disagreeing with their sentiment. Cimino stated:
The petition process is what we have. It’s not perfect, nothing is. If 200 or more citizens of the town put their names to a petition, they should get their time in front of us. . .
I think it’s a mistake to perhaps shine a brighter light on the issue by stonewalling the question. That is not the same as saying I have any agreement at all with the contents of the petition. Far from it.
Selectman Dan Kolenda said he was happy to discuss Purple’s performance. He defended Purple by stating the issue relates to only 1 out of 60 warrant articles that he successfully worked on for the town since his start. “We’re obviously learning from that one.”
Rooney supported the employees by saying:
We have a very effective operating DPW, a very professionally run DPW. We have a Town Administrator who works harder than, at least my experience, any other Town Administrator I’ve seen. He does things which are well beyond anyone’s expectations.
Addressing the board, Aselbekian said the BOS has right to disagree with petition and letter, but residents are entitled to be heard in public forum:
I’m very saddened that initially, Mr. Chairman, you were trying to deny us the right to be heard on this issue.
Aselbekian also stated the intention of petition is to give board a tool at their disposal for future contracts and decisions about what they want from professionals hired by the town.
The board opted not to vote on the charge of “no confidence”.