HANSON — The Board of Selectmen have postponed a scheduled discussion of Town Administrator Ron San Angelo’s contract after an at times awkward start Tuesday night, during which some residents expressed concern that the cart is being put before the horse.
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young had said that his review of San Angelo’s performance evaluation was not yet complete, and that he was not certain where the rest of the board was in that process.
The review, if completed, is now scheduled for the Tuesday, June 2 meeting — which could also include an executive session or open discussion on the contract issue.
“The review process is actually separate from the actual contract process,” Young said. “That’s not on the agenda tonight.”
The state’s Open Meeting Law treats evaluations and contract negotiations as separate issues.
Young stressed the emphasis right now is on settling contract issues with San Angelo and that evaluations, once consolidated and handed into the chairman for summarizing and completion, is a separate document that becomes part of the employee’s records.
During the discussion, a group of residents made their support of San Angelo known by sitting silently while wearing lapel name tags with “Ron” hand-written on them. Former Selectmen James Egan and Steve Amico, members of the board that hired San Angelo, also attended but did not speak.
San Angelo also said nothing during the discussion.
Young outlined the three options between which Selectmen will be deciding: take no action by June 30 with the contract automatically renewing for one year beyond the current June 30, 2016 expiration date; opt not to renew the contract serving as a one-year notice that it will conclude in 2016; or renegotiate a new contract.
He opened the floor to comments from fellow board members on how to proceed.
Selectman Don Howard said he has “no qualms” about working with San Angelo, the third town administrator he has worked with in the past seven years.
“He’s from another state, and sometimes he gets carried away because he’s been a mayor and a manager,” Howard said. “As far as what we hired him for as an administrator for the town of Hanson, in my opinion he’s doing his job.”
“I agree the job’s getting done,” said Selectman James McGahan. “I question, sometimes, the way he does it.”
He said there are three specific points in the contract that concern him, including the indemnification clause.
“Under the old contract, if he was guilty of misconduct the TA was dismissed,” he said. “There is nothing of such in this contract.”
McGahan presented a motion, later withdrawing it; to act on one of the options presented, but Selectman Kenny Mitchell said that step should be made in executive session.
“I think we should go into executive and discuss it and see where everybody’s at,” Mitchell said. “You guys voted to change it to this date. I wasn’t here, I was on vacation.”
He also agreed with Annmarie Bouzan’s contention that some type of review should come first.
“Without going through an evaluation process first, how do you get to the contract?” Bouzan asked.
“I’ve got enough of the evaluation done to make a decision,” Young said. “But it’s not complete yet. It’s not on the agenda.”
Resident Richard Hickey said his understanding was that the board was going to discuss the contract issue alone.
“You said a few minutes ago this was not going to be a public evaluation,” he said. “It sounds like, unintentionally, it’s turning into a public evaluation.”
Hickey said it would not be fair to Mitchell and that executive session would be the proper setting for that.
“I’m sure everybody here wants to see this happen as soon as possible,” Young said. “But we also have to follow legal proceedings and legal advice of counsel, which I got today. My preference would be what Kenny would like to do and have the meeting [June 2] and have an executive session and see where each particular individual stands on this issue — how the board would like to proceed.”
Young is concerned that legal requirements are met to protect both the board and San Angelo.
“Basically, it’s his future,” Young said.
Some in the audience suggested that a decision has already been made.
“I get the feeling that you’ve already made up your mind, and that’s why you are putting the contract negotiations in front of the evaluation,” said resident Robert Sutter.
Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested the June 30 deadline provides ample time to conduct a review first.
“You guys have really been stumping on transparency and openness,” she said. “I’m imploring you to do what you said you were going to do and it just feel right to the majority of people to say that you’re going to go into talk about a contract in executive session — that’s fine — but how can you do that if you haven’t already talked about … and agreed upon what his performance is?”
Young explained the review could be discussed in open session June 2, with a contract discussion either in open or executive session, followed by a subsequent meeting with a vote on the contract.