Charter Compliance Group Sets Hearing On Second Complaint
By: Diana T. Barth
Bourne’s Charter Compliance Committee, which recently debated a charter violation complaint arising from language in Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino’s contract, has set a hearing on its second complaint for 7 PM on Wednesday, July 25, in the lower conference room of town hall.
The committee was asked to determine whether Selectmen Donald J. Pickard and John A. Ford Jr. violated Bourne’s charter by unilaterally requesting employee e-mails, and later sharing the information gained from them with fellow board members.
The group met on June 19 to decide whether the complaint was valid and should be investigated. Committee members voted 3-1 in the absence of Wayne E. Covell and Don C. Hayward to move the complaint forward. Committee member Diane M. Flynn cast the opposing vote.
The complaint in question was filed at the end of May by Richard W. Conron and Judith W. Conron, a former selectman.
The questions the Conrons placed before the committee included whether Mr. Pickard violated the charter by “independently” obtaining copies of employee e-mails regarding the hiring of the new council on aging director, conducting an independent analysis of those e-mails, and publishing his conclusions to other members of the board.
The complaint did not discuss the substance of Mr. Pickard’s actions, but questioned the process by which the e-mails were obtained and the way Mr. Pickard’s conclusions were shared, citing a charter provision that says, “Individual selectmen shall have no independent authority unless specifically voted by the Board of Selectmen.”
In the course of a public discussion of Mr. Pickard’s investigation, Selectman Ford said that during his tenure as chairman, he, too, had obtained e-mails on his own authority.
Both selectmen said they had consulted counsel on the legality of their e-mail requests before taking any action on them.
The agenda for the July 25 meeting includes a presentation on the merits of the complaint by the Conrons, followed by a presentation of a rebuttal on its merits by any members of the board of selectmen who wish to testify.
No vote will be taken at that meeting. Instead, the board will deliberate at a later meeting before voting on the issue.
In June, when the first complaint was heard, no member of the board of selectmen appeared to rebut that complaint, although Selectman Earl V. Baldwin testified in agreement with it. Subsequently, the charter compliance committee voted to ask selectmen to consider striking the language in the administrator’s contract that referenced provisions that could “supersede” the charter. Members also voted to ask selectmen, in writing, to explain the intent of the contractual provision that allows department heads to act “autonomously” to perform the duties the administrator has tasked them with.