HANSON — The Board of Selectmen expect to receive Labor Counsel Leo Peloquin’s report on the Camp Kiwanee investigation in the next few days, but may seek legal advice on the proper way to release it during an open session “sometime in October.”
Selectmen Chairman James McGahan made the announcement during the board’s Tuesday, Sept. 27 meeting. While Town Counsel Jay Talerman was present to participate in the special Town Meeting preview, he was not asked about the issue as the Kiwanee probe falls under the category of labor law, according to selectmen.
“As we get the report, we need to figure out what we have in it to be sure there’s nothing sensitive,” McGahan said. “If employees [are mentioned] we may have to redact some information. That will have to be determined by legal counsel.”
He said Selectmen will have to review the report to decide how to release its information.
Town Administrator Michael McCue was absent due to an illness in his family.
Former Recreation Commission Chairman James Hickey asked if those who might be mentioned in the report would be so advised before it was made public.
“I think that they would probably have to get it at the same time that the public gets it,” McGahan said. “But that’s something that we’ll have to figure out with the attorney. Frankly, I’ve never been put in this position before and I’m not clear on what we’re supposed to do for the next step.”
How to release
He indicated the board might have to meet in executive session before the release to determine how it will be done.
Selectman Bruce Young said the report could refer to “multiple individuals” if similar inquiries done in the past was a guide.
In a letter to the editor [see page 12], past Kiwanee Management Committee member Joanne Blauss said the investigation has left her without much hope in the matter.
“We thought it was going to be wrapped up in September and give the public a chance to look at it and talk about it before the Town Meeting,” Blauss said Monday.
“All we were really promised was that the investigation would be done by September,” said Wes Blauss. He said the major concern is regaining recreation programs for Hanson that can take place by-and-large at Camp Kiwanee.
“Weddings were meant to subsidize events at Kiwanee,” he said. “But now there will be no recreation [events] at Kiwanee next year. It’s booked solid.”
They said McCue had told them before Tuesday’s meeting that the investigation results would not be revealed at Tuesday’s Selectmen’s meeting.
She and others who have served on the commission had expected a “great reveal” on the findings of the nine-month investigation.
Among the events leading to those hopes being “squashed” were: a selectman’s dismissal of citizen rallies as “those fools in front of Town Hall,” the delay in delivering the promised “even-handed, unbiased report” on the commission and its management of Camp Kiwanee, and the closed-door “interrogation” of a 17-year-old seasonal worker at the camp.
The latter incident resulted in a complaint filed against Town Administrator Michael McCue by resident John Mahoney, who had been asked by the teen employee’s family to accompany him during the interview with Peloquin and McCue. Mahoney was denied access to that meeting.
In a letter replying to Mahoney, Magahan wrote that the board had determined that McCue and Peloquin had acted appropriately.
“Consequently, the Board deems this matter closed,” McGahan’s letter dated Sept. 7 read.
Mahoney had charged that two part-time seasonal caretakers at Camp Kiwanee appeared for the Aug. 19 meeting in response to an email request from the Recreation Commission’s administrative assistant, instructing them to “make yourselves available” to meet with McCue at the Needles Lodge office.
“I asked to join them and was refused because, the lawyer told me, ‘it’s confidential, part of the investigation,’” Mahoney wrote in his complaint. While Peloquin represented town officials, Mahoney stated the caretakers “were not afforded the opportunity to have representation, either legal or otherwise.”
The other employee, after his interview told Mahoney the questions centered on a particular wedding about which a complaint had been lodged with the administrative assistant.
“The complaint is that the Town Administrator was not forthcoming about the nature of the meeting, nor that a legal representative would be attending, thus not allowing either employee to arrange for representation,” Mahoney wrote. “It is also a complaint that one of the employees … is an underage minor and should never have been subject to legal questioning without an adult present.”
The investigation is supposed to center on Recreation Commission practices and bookkeeping issues arising after an audit of operations. Wes Blauss said the questions instead have all involved drinking at Camp Kiwanee.
Both the Blausses had a recent meeting with McCue about “getting recreation back to the forefront and he wanted them to continue with plans for the play they had on the calendar, but dates required for rehearsal were largely booked for weddings.
The wedding bookings also came up Sept. 27 during the Town Meeting preview when Dave Blauss asked how the town could rely on future bookings to raise enough money to pay a recreation director’s salary after the six-month period to be funded by warrant article 20. He said projections for fiscal 2018 are down, despite being booked solid through July 2017.
“We always know that because people book weddings a year to two years in advance,” Dave Blauss said in response to Young’s question of how that projection could be made. “The board should know what the income is coming in before we fill a position that we may not be able to fund.”
McGahan advised referring the question to McCue, who is now overseeing Kiwanee operations.
Finance Committee Chairman Michael Wojdag cautioned that the $273,000 made at Kiwanee in fiscal 2016, was offset by expenses that came in at $284,000 for that period with the loss offset by taxation.
“One of the purposes of the recreation director is to stimulate more rentals at the camp,” Young argued. “Right now, it’s not being run by a professional. It’s being run by part-timers and an administrative assistant.”
“The place needs to be run like a business,” agreed Selectman Kenny Mitchell. “You put the proper management in there, [and] you could absolutely generate more money for that place. … Me being a business guy, I think you take the risk.”