(Updated again) Selectmen publicly approve Town Administrator’s and Police Chief’s raises

Last night, the Board of Selectmen addressed and corrected an Open Meeting Law violation. In their public session, they approved the raise for the Town Administrator. They also publicly approved a raise for the Chief of Police.

Last week, I shared Southborough Wicked Local’s report that a compliant was filed against the board.  Desiree Aselbekian filed her complaint with the state’s Attorney General’s Office. She pointed out that a decision briefly referred to in a December meeting should have been voted on in public.

The vote in question was approval of a raise for Town Administrator Mark Purple. Last week, Aselbekian explained to SWL that salaries and raises for non-union Town personnel must be voted on in open session.

In last night’s meeting, selectmen confirmed that Aselbekian was right about the process. They proceeded to approve Purple’s evaluation and raise in public session. (There was no mention of Aselbekian’s additional request that the raise be rescinded.)

Chair Bill Boland explained that the process is different than with past TAs. Past contracts included set raises. Purple’s contract calls for the board to decide on the raise each year.

Labor counsel advised selectmen that the final decision on the evaluation and raise must be ratified in open session. 

The board voted unanimously to approve Purple’s evaluation. Boland noted that while it wasn’t included in the packet, it is publicly available through Purple or the Assistant Town Administrator. (For a copy of Purple’s evaluation or contract, email mpurple@southboroughma.org or vhale@southboroughma.org.)

The board then voted 3-2 to approve Purple’s 3.5% raise, bringing his salary to $143,890, retroactive October 18, 2014. Selectmen Paul Cimino and Bonnie Phaneuf opposed. (No reason was provided.)

Selectman John Rooney apologized for the board’s mistake.

Rooney began saying that as town leaders, they should strive for perfection, but they don’t always succeed. He followed with:

I guess, know what, we’re all too human and when we make a mistake we should acknowledge it, be thankful it’s brought to our attention, correct it and ensure that it’s not repeated. And I think we just need to be more vigilant in everything we do. There are a lot of demands for our time, we do the best we can. . .

It’s an honor and pleasure to serve with [fellow board members], and on occasion we are going to make mistakes.

Boland then informed the room that Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus has a similar contract clause to Purple’s. He stated that the board decided on Paulhus’ raise in closed session with the chief earlier that evening. Last night, they made it official in a public vote.

There was no vote on Paulhus’ evaluation, since it was conducted by Purple. (Purple is the only employee directly reviewed by selectmen.) Selectmen said they used the evaluation to inform their vote.

In a 3-2 vote, the board raised Paulhus’ salary to $120,000. Rooney and Selectman Dan Kolenda voted against the raise. (No reason was provided.) The new salary becomes effective on February 11.

Updated (1/21/15 4:05 pm): I changed the section on Chief Paulhus’ raise to reflect that the executive session took place earlier on Tuesday evening. (I just remembered that I forgot to edit that section before publishing.)

Updated (1/22/15 9:45 am): Southborough Wicked Local reports that Aselbekian is still looking for the board to directly address her complaint.

In addition to the open meeting violation (which she alleged was intentionally done to hide the salary increase from the public), the complaint included a request to rescind the raise and to have the board receive Open Meeting Law training.

SWL writes:

Aselbekian said the board has until Friday to respond to her complaint and she could decide to bring it to the state’s attorney general if not satisfied with the town’s response.

For that full story, click here.

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