To the Editor:
In The Lincoln County News edition of Oct. 23, a front page article was entitled “Damariscotta Selectmen Removes Pinkham as Chairman”. On page four, a letter to the Editor was titled “A Shameful Premeditated Act”
There were three important issues discussed at that meeting. The first was the Damariscotta 2008-2009 Snow Removal Contracts. Hagar Enterprises was awarded the contract on March 19 and three members of the Board finally signed the contract on July 16.
The Selectmen meetings on Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 continued with debate over who should pay for the performance bond. The contract is clear and says on page 3, paragraph 13, lines 8-10, “the contractor shall submit such surety bond or letter of credit to the Town by September 15 of each year of the agreement. It is understood that this cost will be passed on to and paid by the Town”.
Hagar Enterprises has no responsibility to pay the cost of the bond, nor the new additional, $30,000 cash security requirement imposed by the bonding company on the Town. Being a considerate, community-minded company, Hagar Enterprises voluntarily put up $15,000 of their company money in an interest bearing account so the bond could be finalized.
In that way, the Town only had to commit half their required amount, or, $15,000.
During the last 10 months, many negative, derogatory comments have been made about this company by two members of the Board. Hagar Enterprises has met every requirement of the contract, and then some.
It is important that Selectmen be objective, ethical, and lawful in representing the Town. Members need to exclude themselves from discussions or voting in which they have a personal, financial or business interest in the outcome. It became a serious concern to three members of the Board that the Town was being put at risk due to a pattern of behavior and conduct related to this contractor over a long period of time by some members of the Board.
The second issue was the executive session, placed on this agenda at the suggestion of the former Chairman. Any one of the selectmen can put an item on the agenda. The former Chairman cited the purpose of his intended closed executive session as lack of “communication” with the Town Manager and job performance.
The Town Manager exercised his right to have the executive session “conducted in open session”, since it was performance related.
The ensuing negative comments and criticism of the Town Manager by the former Chairman were baseless. Again, the issue surfaced of the former Chairman of the Board nit-picking and meddling in the day-to-day responsibilities of the Road Commissioner and Town Manager related to road work contracts with the same contractor.
As a matter-of-fact, three members of the Board, the Police Chief, the Road Commissioner, and several residents complemented the Town Manager on superb communication skills, and, outstanding performance in all aspects of his job. The members of the Board need to treat all town employees with dignity and respect, not public ridicule.
It should be noted that these two issues were addressed during almost three hours of discussion.
The two, previous, discussions convinced three board members that new, responsible leadership was required. Actions by the former Board chairman was putting the Town at risk and damaging the reputation of the Board and the Town. Dick McLean was elected as the new Chairman.
Concerning the ” Letter to the Editor” mentioned at the beginning, the Selectmen and Town Manager requested the Town Attorney provide answers to the following two questions:
1. What is the procedure if any, for electing a new Chairman in mid-term?
Answer: Page 2, paragraph 1, lines 8-10, “it appears appropriate and proper to ‘reconsider’ and if such reconsideration is agreed to and voted upon, to replace the Chair”.
2. What are the rights of the individual person being removed from the chairmanship with respect to Executive Session treatment?
Answer: Page3, paragraph 2, lines1-3: “I fail to find any reason that the Board could have used to go into executive session nor do I find that there was any restriction preventing the Board from taking the action it did”.
These are the facts and that is what happened at the Damariscotta meeting on Oct. 15.
I recommend you watch the video of the entire three hour and 44 minute meeting and decide for yourself what happened.
The meeting is broadcast on Time-Warner, public cable, Lincoln County TV Channel 7. You may also, purchase a DVD copy of the video from LCTV by calling 563-6338.
Edwin M. Stelzer, Selectman, Damariscotta