2017-05-04 / News

Potential for litigation between councilors, library board exists

BY TIM RIEL

Whatever is plaguing the relationship between the town and the library board of trustees will, for now, remain behind closed doors.

The two sides and their lawyers met Monday night in what was scheduled to be an open session. But before even getting settled, Councilwoman Mary Meagher made a motion to move the meeting into executive session. Council President Kristine Trocki, who lobbied for a public session, reminded Meagher the meeting wasn’t even called to order.

“I apologize for jumping the gun,” Meagher said.

The meeting was opened in public while councilors debated for about 15 minutes whether to close the discussion. According to the agenda, the sides were scheduled to discuss a proposed memorandum of understanding. However, personnel issues between the town administration and the trustees, along with the potential for litigation, also were listed on the agenda as possible discussion topics. According to state law, legal and personnel matters are reasons to have an executive session.

Before ultimately sending the public from the room, Trocki said she was under the impression the sides would discuss their relationship openly “for the community’s benefit.” But Mary Lou Sanborn, chairwoman of the trustees, was adamant about talking behind closed doors. Whether it was litigation or personnel, however, was not clear. “We’re not sure at this point,” she said.

Trocki wondered why the trustees “presupposed” the conversation would turn into a discussion that warranted executive session. She recommended starting the meeting in public.

“If it nears personnel or litigation, we can go into executive session,” she said.

Despite Trocki’s efforts, all seven trustees voted to have the entire conversation closed to the public. Along with Sanborn, sitting on the board are Paul Housberg, Peter

Carson, Marianne Kirby, Jennifer Cloud, Christian Infantalino and Chris Walsh.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero, who spoke with the library’s lawyer beforehand, said there was “a lot of ambiguity.” Rusty Sallee is representing the trustees.

“He made it very clear to me that there is potential litigation,” Ruggiero said. “You are eligible, in my opinion, to go under executive session if you choose.”

Ruggiero declined to make a recommendation to the council. When asked by Trocki, he simply reiterated the councilors were legally eligible.

Town Administrator Andy Nota said he didn’t think the meeting was going to be a personnel discussion. Rather, he thought the sides were going to discuss the structure and organization of the library and its purview within the town charter.

“The majority of this discussion is worthy of an open discussion,” he said.

If the trustees had different plans, however, Nota said he understood their concerns. “If there’s interest in talking specifically about an employee, I wouldn’t deny them the right to go under executive session,” he said.

When the sides adjourned their closed session, Carson spoke briefly about the meeting. He said the trustees want to work “through the responsibilities” they have, which wasn’t clear to prior boards.

“That was the nature of our discussion,” he said.

Vice President Mike White said he didn’t mind going into executive session, but said a public discussion needs to be scheduled down the road.

“We just have to make sure the memorandum is talked about in public session,” he said. “That’s all I care about.”

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