Board: Bring mediator into town hall fracas

  • Deputy Clerk Jeanne Whitcomb, right, listens to residents speak on Thursday night. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

  • Office Assistant Betsy Perry stands to speak about her resignation from her position during Thursday’s Select Board meeting. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

  • Select Board Assistant Deb Harling, Select Board Chair George Willard, and Select Board members Ken Caisse and Gail Cromwell listen to residents speak during Thursday’s board meeting.. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/11/2016 7:10:33 PM

Three town hall employees who resigned last month have agreed to stay on and work with a professional mediator.

Town Clerk Wendy Drouin, Deputy Clerk Jeanne Whitcomb and Treasurer Shannon Kelley told the Select Board they resigned due to conflict between the office personnel and Select Board member Gail Cromwell particularly.

A fourth town office employee, office assistant Betsy Perry, turned in her resignation on March 30.

“I didn’t do this quickly, or without thought,” said Perry during Thursday night’s off-schedule Select Board meeting. “I have worked for this town for 15 years. I thought this is the job I would retire from.”

Because they are not elected officials, Perry and Whitcomb had the right to not have their employment discussed in public. Both women waived that right on Thursday to allow public discussion.

On Thursday, the Select Board reiterated a request they had made of the original three resignees at their last public meeting: Give us more time. Select Board member Ken Caisse asked the employees to consider staying on for an additional 30 days while the board and employees tried to come to a workable solution that would avoid a mass resignation. Drouin and Kelley’s resignations gave notice through April 7.

Kelley was not present at the Thursday meeting, but Perry and Whitcomb agreed to stay the additional time, and Drouin agreed that she would continue in her clerk duties on Tuesdays for the remainder of the month.

Several of the residents who packed the town hall for the meeting asked the board to consider having a professional mediator or team-building specialist step in to try to solve the conflict.

When Caisse asked Perry, Drouin and Whitcomb if they would be open to a mediation process, all three women replied that they would.

The Select Board also agreed to consult with the town’s lawyer on whether Kelley’s and Drouin’s resignations were still effective as of April 7, despite the fact that the Select Board had not accepted them and Drouin’s willingness to stay beyond her effective resignation.

In the case where an elected official resigns, the Select Board has the power to appoint a replacement until the next election cycle. Drouin pointed out that if there is an issue, the board can appoint her or Kelley to the position in the interim.

The board unanimously agreed to consult town counsel on the legal matter, and in a separate vote, unanimously agreed to seek and hire a professional mediator to work with the board and employees to reach a solution.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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