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Selectmen Chairman Anna Elliott Declares 'Town Manager Matter' Closed

"The Board considers this matter closed," Selectman Chairman Anna Eliot told the audience as she concluded her prepared statement at Monday night's Selectmen's meeting. Eliot's statement came as the culmination of months' long investigation into allegations leveled by resident Meghan Volpe who contacted Selectman Josh Degen in early Nov. 2011 and complained about online communications between her and Town Manager Mark Haddad that she claimed were inappropriate. According to Degen, Volpe asked him to keep her complaint in confidence.

In early December 2011, the full Board learned of the complaint, in which Volpe claimed she was promised favors by Haddad that were not available to the average citizen and was the recipient of inappropriate online comments. According to the statement, The citizen has further alleged that the Board of Selectmen has failed to respond to this situation."

Selectmen did respond to the complaint by commissioning an investigation and appointing Arthur Parker of Billingsgate Associates to investigate the resident's claims. "A copy of Mr. Parker's investigative report is available in the Town Clerk's office for review and inspection. We believe that the findings speak for themselves," Eliot said.

"The Board has expressed its disappointment that the Town Manager would engage in conduct that would cause a distraction and result in unnecessary expenses for the town. Mark has been contrite throughout this matter and understands that his actions were inappropriate. To confirm the Board's position that his actions were inappropriate and reflected adversely on town government, we have placed a letter of disapproval in Mark's employment file and informed him that any future inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated. Nevertheless, we support Mark and his performance as Town Manager since his appointment and do not believe his private actions here will affect his ability to serve as Town Manager in the future. At our meeting of Feb. 22, we passed a vote of confidence in Mark by a vote of four to one. Selectman Degen was opposed," Eliot continued.

"The Board has taken note that in spite of the distraction this matter has represented over the past few months, Mark has continued to perform his responsibilities in a highly competent manner, including preparation and presentation of the FY2013 budget as well as successfully concluding contact negotiations with several of the town's bargaining units. Many town employees expressed their support for Mark as well, through this time, and expressed their approval of his leadership and management of the town since his appointment in 2008," she concluded.

Eliot reiterated that the investigator's report was available for the public in the town clerk's office.

She then opened the meeting up to questions from the audience. Resident Art Campbell asked if any further information had come to light since the investigator's report was completed. Degen said he attempted to bring information into executive session, (held on Wednesday, Feb 22) "but the Board of Selectmen did not want to consider it." Eliot pointed out that this was discussing executive session material.

Resident John Strauss asked what would happen if there should be some future complaint and if this will be a financial issue for the town.

Selectman Peter Cunningham advised that the Board did not believethere was any misappropriation of town resources in this case, adding that sometimes people at work will use a phone for a personal reason. "The Human Resource Director will look at adding new policies, and Selectmen will look for a protocol for processing and pursuing a complaint," he said.

Selectman Fran Dillon stressed, "Most of the things that occurred are under policies that we already have. The operations and procedure were adopted by Selectmen in 2004 regarding a complaint and how it should go to the Chairman of the Board. If we had followed that, a lot of this distraction would not have occurred."

In other business, Degen reported that the 134 Main Street property - aka Kilbridges -is close to completing the purchase and sale agreement. Groton Affordable Housing Trust, of which Degen is a member, is a partner with the developer, Mt. Laurel Development for creating three affordable housing units. He said he expects to see Mt. Laurel break ground on the site in spring. "There is lots of affordable housing in town right now that is not moving," Degen added.

The Board appointed Russ Burke as Planning Board representative to the Prescott School Reuse Committee. They also appointed Alvin Neff to the Emergency Management Committee, and Michael LeTerz to the Historical Commission.

Groton Herald

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