Wilton board scrambles in aftermath of employee exodus

  • Wilton select board members Kelli-Sue Boissonnault and Matt Fish discuss how to proceed in aftermath of three abrupt employee departures on Monday. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, April 12, 2018 7:49AM

Wilton select board members are still scrambling after three employees in the town’s administrative office abruptly departed last month.

Bookkeeper and Selectman’s Assistant Caitlin Martin, Town Administrator Scott Butcher, and Administrative Assistant Pamela Atwood, all recently resigned.

Martin was the first to leave the office. Butcher quit, in part, because he wasn’t able to hire Martin’s replacement as outlined in his job description. Atwood’s resignation was a direct result of Butcher’s departure. In an email to the Ledger-Transcript, Atwood said she didn’t want to run the office by herself and said there were accusations being tossed around that gave the impression that fraudulent activity was taking place, which she took offense to because she was overseeing the town’s bank accounts.

Now, select board members are trying to pick up the pieces that were left behind.

The town has hired Linda Jennings, of Amherst Bookkeeping, to keep the town’s accounts until a permanent employee is hired. John MacLean, of Municipal Resources Inc, has also been retained to help fill the town administrator position.

Selectmen Matt Fish said he recently became aware that MacLean doesn’t have that much time to act as the interim town administrator and will largely be assisting with the hiring process. Selectmen Kermit Williams reiterated that MacLean will spend “a very limited amount of time” completing town administrator duties due to his schedule.

Williams said the town is paying MacLean $85 per hour for his time, which he said was “not an exorbitant price” for his level of expertise.

“[MacLean] is highly skilled and he is very judicious of our funds,” Williams said during a regular meeting Monday night. “He doesn’t want to come sit in the office and sit and wait for something to happen.”

Williams said the board will need to take on additional tasks, “but we haven’t gotten to those yet.”

He said that he was “very concerned with the mess that was left behind,” noting at one point during the meeting that there was a lot of filing that needed to be completed.

“I think that, unfortunately, there’s a lot of chaos in that office,” Williams said about the administrative office.

Fish said he would like to see the town administrator and the administrative assistant positions hired quickly.

“I’m hoping to get someone in there ASAP, pronto,” Fish said in reference to the town administrator position. “Even on a temporary basis to help us do one of these because right now it’s a black hole and it doesn’t work for anyone.”

Later, he said the board was accepting applications for the assistant position.

“To reiterate publicly, we are taking applications for the administrative assistant position,” Fish said. “So spread the word.”

There was a brief moment of silence and then Williams responded, “we’re not really, because we haven’t figured out what the job description looks like yet.”

Williams said MRI, the consulting company, suggested that the town didn’t actually need three people in the Selectmen’s Office.

But Chairwoman Kelli-Sue Boissonnault corrected Williams during the meeting, stating that MRI needed to assess each of the administrative jobs in order to determine how many people should be hired for the office.

“It’s something we need to figure out,” Williams said. “I want to make sure we are not overspending the town’s money on staff. I think we were overspending the town’s money with what we had. So I would like to make sure that going forward we are very careful with what we do.”

Williams said each of the people hired needed to be selected carefully.

Fish reiterated his concern about the timeline on the process.

“The public is concerned. I’m concerned. There is no one over there. It has been weeks. We’re weeks away, it just seems like a big, black hole that’s spinning around and getting bigger and bigger and creeping out. And, to me, I want someone in there ASAP. Pronto. Double STAT. Tomorrow,” Fish said.

Boissonnault responded that “it won’t happen that quickly but I’m hoping soon.”

The discussion about filling those positions was just one of many small squabbles the board had during its regular meeting.

During a discussion about setting select board meeting agendas, the board argued over a deadline to submit items. Boissonnault said Wednesday should be the deadline so that she could have time to research and prepare for the meeting. Williams said people should be allowed to get on the agenda up until the document is published on Friday. The same discussion yielded argument over where people should submit content for the agenda. Boissonnault said it can be done through the town website or by calling or emailing her directly. Williams said he didn’t like that she was the gatekeeper.

A conversation about what to charge the Ledger-Transcript for copies regarding a Freedom of Information Act Request yielded some dissension as well. Fish said copies of the documents requested should cost $1, as the town’s policy states. Williams said copies should be lower, as a piece of proposed legislation suggests. The board voted in a two “yay”, one “nay” vote to charge $1 for the copies. A question about whether or not the town should charge for emails and photos taken of documents turned into a discussion about a need to revisit the town’s policy regarding the matter.

The Ledger-Transcript has previously reported issues between select board members. In an article published earlier this month, Boissonnault and Williams were reported to have clashed over who would be the point person for the town’s law firm. Boissonnault argued that she should because of her position as chair. Williams contested that the chair position was “ceremonial” because it was passed around to each member of the board depending on the year. Williams said he would be better suited to act as the liaison because of his role in the state House of Representatives. Eventually, Williams was appointed to the role.

The board meets every Monday at 6:30 p.m.