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Conway Selectboard holds off on highway boss choice

Awaits Personnel Committee report Wednesday at 5:30

CONWAY — Selectmen will choose the town’s new highway boss at the end of the month.

The Selectboard is waiting for the Personnel Committee to review the town employee handbook and to make a final job recommendation at its next meeting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Office.

“There are things we need to wait for to have in place before we take a vote,” said Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke. “We want final changes made before a decision is made.”

This includes handbook revisions and town counsel advice on whether the town could hire Ron Sweet of Conway. Sweet could have a conflict of interest if hired because his son also works in the department.

On Thursday morning, O’Rourke met with the town attorney to find out whether hiring Sweet would create a liability for the town. O’Rourke indicated Attorney John Fitzgibbons “gave some positive feedback.” He would not elaborate on the details.

“For us to make a decision, we need to have some things in place,” said O’Rourke.

Personnel handbook

It is waiting for the final revision of the personnel handbook, including changes to the exempt versus nonexempt employee policy and the overtime policy.

“Before we make a decision, I want all of our personnel policies to be consistent with state law and make sure we have everything in order,” O’Rourke said.

In July, the Selectboard gave its preliminary approval to a new personnel handbook that included a nepotism policy — its biggest change. The town has not rolled out the new handbook yet and continues to follow the old version. O’Rourke said questions asked by department heads raised the need for further review of the new handbook.

O’Rourke said one of the policies the Personnel Committee will decide on is whether the town should keep the nepotism policy in the new handbook. This policy could come into play with the highway boss job.

The highway superintendent choice comes down to Sweet and Mark Bernier of Turners Falls, who the Personnel Committee recommended.

Conflict of interest issue

The holdup is due to Sweet’s conflict of interest. The state conflict of interest law forbids a municipal employee from overseeing an immediate family member or partner who has a financial interest.

Sweet, however, has disclosed his conflict with the state Ethics Commission, which would allow the Selectboard to waive the conflict and hire him. The state gives small towns with fewer than 10,000 people exceptions. When Sweet applied for the job, the Personnel Committee was also concerned with his lack of a high school diploma or GED — a requirement in the job description.

O’Rourke confirmed Tuesday that “Ron has completed the educational requirements that was advertised.”

Since Jan. 7, Sweet has served as interim superintendent, which the Selectboard authorized Tuesday night. He is receiving $24.95 per hour.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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