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CHARTER AND BYLAWS IN CONFLICT: Selectmen Appoint Personnel Board; Board's Purpose Remains Unclear

In mixed voting, Selectmen appointed Mary Jennings, Bud Robertson and Dolores Alberghini to the Personnel Board. The Board made the appointments at their June 10 meeting following brief presentations by candidates for the open slots on the board.

There were a total of six candidates for the three board positions and, in addition to Jennings, Robertson and Alberghini, Mike Manugian, Rule Loving and Norma Garvin were also candidates. Manugian and Loving received only one vote each while Robertson received five votes and Jennings and Alberghini received four votes. Garvin withdrew her candidacy after realizing there was a surplus of candidates.

The appointments staff a board whose authority and responsibilities remain unclear as town officials and volunteers debate the role of the Personnel Board under the town's new Charter. In pre-Charter days, the Personnel Board was a volunteer board and had responsibility for establishing a wage and salary schedule for non-union employees, determined cost-of-living adjustments, explained benefits and handled grievances.

In post-Charter days, the town has established a Human Resources Department under the Town Manager and has hired a full time director for the department. The Human Resources Department is now involved in wage and salary schedules and also grievance procedures. Also, in post-Charter days, the number of non-union employees has almost disappeared as more and more employee groups have voted to unionize leaving only three non-represented employees.

In part, because of these trends, Selectmen decided not to appoint a Personnel Board despite a town bylaw that makes provision for a Personnel Board. The issue came to a head when voters at town meeting voted not to eliminate a Personnel Board. Under town bylaws, a Personnel Board would have responsibility to set a wage classification schedule for non-union employees and be involved in grievances for non-union employees.

Some time later residents criticized Selectmen for ignoring the vote and failing to appoint members to the Board. In response to the criticism, Selectmen directed a Bylaw Review Committee to determine what responsibilities the Personnel Board would have under the town charter and how it would fit with the responsibilities of the Human Resources Department.

Selectmen also agreed to appoint members to the Personnel Board. The Personnel Board consists of three members and their purpose and responsibilities will await the findings of the study committee.

There were significant differences made by candidates seeking appointment to the Personnel Board but all believed that a Personnel Board is a viable board and could be an important resource for the Human Resources Department. In his comments to Selectmen, Robertson said the Personnel Board could work in an advisory capacity to the Human Resources Department. One of the differences among the candidates was the role of the Personnel Board in handling grievances of non-union employees.

Manugian said the Personnel Board should be involved in the grievance process and that it would be an independent voice in such a process. Jennings, however, said the Personnel Board should not be involved in the grievance process noting concerns of employee privacy.

Alberghini was appointed for a one-year term, Jennings for a two-year term and Robertson for a three-year term.

Groton Herald

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145 Main Street, Groton, Massachusetts 014510
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