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Proposed Conway search group could violate law

Proposed Conway Town administrator search committee membership could violate law

CONWAY — The Selectboard has agreed to form a search committee to once again find a new town administrator.

The proposed membership of the search committee discussed Monday night, however, would be a violation of the state Open Meeting Law.

Selectboard member Rick Bean suggested forming a screening group made up by the three Selectboard members, Treasurer Janet Warner and Personnel Committee member Robert Stone.

Bean said a search committee would include “obviously the Selectboard members, treasurer and Bob Stone. A five-member committee is the way to go.”

But the state Open Meeting Law says that no quorum of a “parent” committee may be on a screening committee.

The Selectboard still has to ask Stone to be on the committee.

The search group would look to fill the spot vacated by Amanda Majewski-Winn, who is moving to Cape Cod with her husband, the former Greenfield fire chief, who has taken a job there.

By the June 17 deadline to apply, there were seven applicants, Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke confirmed.

O’Rourke would not say whether any previous candidates for town administrator applied a second time.

The Recorder filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Division of Open Government on April 18 against the Conway Selectboard for its previous search for a town administrator, in which it hired Majewski-Winn.

The attorney general’s office is investigating The Recorder’s complaint that the previous search committee process was flawed because it yielded a single candidate without the identities of finalists being released to the public. Court decisions on the Open Meeting Law have said there should be at least two public finalists for the hiring authority to choose from.

The latest correspondence between the attorney general’s office and the town is a request by the state on June 17 for copies of all notices, open and executive session minutes related to search committee meetings and Selectboard meetings in which the town administrator search process and/or the committee was discussed.

The deadline for the town to submit the documents is July 5.

During the previous search, the search committee reviewed the resumes of 17 applicants for the full-time position and from that group chose to interview five. After private interviews with the five, the committee chose one finalist, Majewski-Winn.

The Recorder requested the names of the four other finalists under the belief that the public has a right to know who the other final contenders for the job were. The search committee denied the newspaper’s request and the newspaper appealed to the state.

Part of the newspaper’s complaint is that the search committee included a quorum of the Selectboard.

The search committee previously included the Selectboard members, outgoing Personnel Committee Chair Heather Rose, Treasurer Jan Warner and former administrator aide, Andrea Llamas.

O’Rourke has since said Selectboard member Jim Moore never participated in the interviews and O’Rourke and Bean never met together during the interview process.

In its initial response to the newspaper’s complaint, John O’Rourke wrote that four of the five candidates interviewed by the screening committee expressed concern about their names being revealed. Citing the privacy exemption under the Open Meeting Law, the search committee and Selectboard has declined to provide the names of the four other final candidates.

Bean volunteered to do the town administrator tasks while the town searches for its replacement. Bean filled in during the 11 weeks it was without an administrator in the winter after the former administrator, Edward MacDonald, resigned unexpectedly.

The Selectboard is also accused of violating the open meeting law by MacDonald, a case that is also still pending.

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

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