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Conway leader responds to complaint

CONWAY — In his 15-page response to the state attorney general about an open meeting complaint by the town’s former administrator, Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke said the town leaders always comply with the law.

The Selectboard’s response is now in the hands of the attorney general, who will forward it to Edward MacDonald and his attorney, Stanley Weinberg of Shrewsbury. If MacDonald is unsatisfied, he can file a complaint with the attorney general, who would then investigate.

On Feb. 12, MacDonald demanded a payout of $14,301 in wages and benefits he claims he’s owed.

Seven weeks prior, on Jan. 7, MacDonald handed in his resignation letter with a 30-day notice, only 47 days after starting the job. On Jan. 14, the Selectboard voted to accept his resignation immediately, but not his 30-day notice after discovering he had never quit his previous job as town administrator in Chester.

First off, it is too late for MacDonald to allege Open Meeting Law violations against the town leaders, according to O’Rourke.

MacDonald’s complaint, O’Rourke said, was not filed using the Open Meeting Law Complaint form available on the attorney general’s website within the 30-day filing period. The complaint was filed six days after the deadline.

In MacDonald’s complaint, he said on Jan. 7, O’Rourke and Selectboard member Rick Bean told him to place Ron Sweet of Conway on the list of candidates to be interviewed for the highway superintendent job. He accused the two men of secretly meeting to discuss putting the candidate on the interview list. MacDonald claimed this “political interference” pressured him to resign.

O’Rourke argued he alone made the decision to interview Sweet, because MacDonald did not have enough knowledge of Sweet or experience in town to make the correct decision.

MacDonald also accused the Selectboard of voting unlawfully to terminate his employment on Jan. 14. MacDonald argued the Conway board did not advertise the employment termination vote on a meeting agenda and discussion on the vote appeared to have taken place outside a posted meeting.

O’Rourke said he had introduced the motion after consulting with town counsel and the Personnel Committee.

O’Rourke refuted MacDonald’s accusations, stating “The Board of Selectmen had no obligation to accept a 30-day notice from a town administrator who had acted dishonestly and had so blatantly violated a basic element of his contract.”

That basic element was working as the town administrator for Conway and only Conway.

When the Selectboard hired MacDonald on Oct. 18, he told them he’d give his 30-day notice to the Chester. But on Jan. 10, the Selectboard discovered MacDonald had never resigned from Chester, which was confirmed by Chester Selectman Donald Ellershaw.

The Selectboard later discovered MacDonald had also worked for the town of Hatfield for two weeks in April 2012. The Hatfield Board of Selectmen also believed MacDonald had resigned from Chester.

“Edward MacDonald not only deceived the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Conway, but also apparently deceived the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Hatfield,” O’Rourke said. “His statements to and actions before both of these Boards of Selectmen convinced them that he either would resign or had resigned his position from the Town of Chester when indeed he had not.”

At 3 p.m. on Jan. 14, O’Rourke said MacDonald walked out of Town Office without notifying the selectboard he would not be present at the board meeting later that evening and commented to a town staff member that he “was not going to stay around to take any shots.” That was the last interaction the town had with MacDonald until he wrote them with complaints.

Instead, MacDonald attended the meeting of the Chester Board of Selectmen, according to that town’s Jan. 14 meeting minutes. O’Rourke added that MacDonald’s obligations to Chester interfered with his contractual obligations to Conway.

“The board was not interested in hiring anyone who was dividing his allegiance, time and efforts between Conway and another town, aside from the fact that this could be a conflict of interest under certain circumstances,” O’Rourke said.

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

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