HANSON — Town Hall will reopen for regular business operations on June 1.
The Board of Selectmen voted to lift the restrictions to access imposed by the coronavirus pandemic during its Tuesday, May 18 meeting.
“The last time we discussed this as a group, we were a little different with the forecast of COVID,” said Selectmen Chairman Matt Dyer. “With the governor ending the COVID emergency here in the commonwealth, on the 29th — or dropping the COVID restrictions — I wanted to get a motion from the board to reopen Town Hall to the general public on June 1.”
Selectmen also dealt with resignations, accepting with regret the departure of IT Director Ryan McGonnigle. He is accepting a position in East Bridgewater.
But a resignation letter from Planner Deb Pettey led to a tense discussion, as Selectmen Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett and Joe Weeks advocated against accepting her resignation in hopes the town could entice her to stay. She had intended to depart May 24, but has asked to stay on until June 10.
Dyer was reluctant to get into detailed discussion on the matter out of concern for potential violations of the rights of a public employee.
“I would like to see if we could have a conversation with her and I would like to not accept her resignation and see if we could work something out with her,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “You can’t discuss departure date without accepting.”
“I would have liked to discuss this a little bit more before going right to a vote,” Weeks said.
Dyer explained his concern was over exposing the town to liability if a discussion took place without proper notification so Pettey could have the opportunity to attend such a meeting.
“She has done a lot of work,” Dyer said in thanking Pettey for her service to Hanson. “A lot of stuff has been on her plate the last couple of years. … She has done a lot of great things here in the town of Hanson.”
Planning Board member Joe Campbell asked if there would be a point in the near future where a discussion of Pettey’s departure will happen.
“I think it’s pretty straightforward that Ms. Pettey had tendered her resignation at her will, and we’re just accepting her resignation,” Dyer said. “We will not be revisiting this topic.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett countered that, when a long-time employee leaves — “somebody whose done a damn good job, which you said yourself” — the board has an obligation to find out why she is leaving and see if there is anything to be done in an effort to retain a good employee.
She said Pettey’s performance need not be discussed in such a conversation.
“I feel it’s a missed opportunity,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Dyer said that has never been done when any other employee left.
Campbell said he was empowered by the Planning Board to oppose any acceptance of Pettey’s resignation.
Interim Town Administrator Lisa Green said the board could have a discussion with an employee to try identifying reasons or motivations for such actions and ask them to consider their decision.
Selectmen Kenny Mitchell and Jim Hickey joined Dyer in voting to accept Pettey’s resignation.
The board also addressed filling the two positions.
Green said the planner position has a very broad job description and favors more closely identifying its duties and responsibilities.
Dyer said he and Mitchell had met with Green and Planning Board members Campbell and Don Ellis to discuss that.
Green said she will be working on the job description with the Planning Board.
Ellis asked if any Selectmen had spoken to Pettey about the job description as written. Dyer said the discussion with Green touched on it, but no other Selectmen indicated they had done so.
Town Administrator John Stanbrook said the agreement with East Bridgewater called for the town to pay more than $60,000 of the IT director’s $90,000 cost associated with the position’s time serving Hanson’s needs. Green noted that most area towns have a dedicated employee working part-time as IT.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked if Hanson’s needs dictate hiring a full-time person.