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Recorder protests Conway’s refusal to release administrator finalists’ names

CONWAY — Because the selectmen have declined to name the four semi-finalists for the recently filled town administrator job, The Recorder is appealing to state officials under the state Open Meeting and public records laws.

The Town Administrator Search Committee reviewed the resumes of 17 applicants for the full-time position and from that group chose to interview five candidates. After private interviews with the five, the committee chose one finalist, the person who has since taken the job: Amanda Majewski-Winn.

The Recorder has asked the search committee for the names of the other four people interviewed in the belief that the public has a right to know who the other final contenders for the job were, and has appealed the town’s denial under the state Open Meeting Law with the Attorney General’s Office. The paper in its appeal, cites that part of the state Open Meeting Law that says that after an “initial screening” names of people seeking public government jobs must be released to the public.

The search committee included Selectmen John O’Rourke and Rick Bean, Personnel Committee Chairwoman Heather Rose, Treasurer Jan Warner and Finance Committee member Andrea Llamas, according to Rose. Selectman Jim Moore said last week that he was not a member of the search panel. The composition of the search committee may have been faulty, in that the state open meeting law says that no quorum of a “parent” committee may be on a screening committee.

In a statement read at April 22’s selectboard meeting in response to The Recorder’s request, Chairman John O’Rourke reasoned, “in the employment process, the public revelation of an employment application could be injurious to the relationship of the candidate with his/her present employer. The lack of confidentiality in the employment process would most probably discourage some qualified candidates from applying for a position with a public entity.”

According to O’Rourke, four of the five candidates interviewed for the position expressed concern over having their names revealed publicly as an applicant.

The state Open Meeting Law does allow a public body to meet in executive session to consider or interview applicants for employment by a screening committee if the chairman declares an open meeting would have detrimental effect in obtaining candidates.

However, the state law goes on to say this exemption does not apply to meetings of a preliminary screening committee to consider and interview applicants who have passed a “prior preliminary screening.”

O’Rourke contends the entire selection process before the town offered the position to Majewski-Winn was a preliminary screening.

“There was only one preliminary screening and no intermediate screenings between the preliminary screening and choice of a final candidate and, therefore, no requirement to reveal the names of the candidates selected in an intermediate screening,” O’Rourke said. “It is the opinion of the Board of Selectmen that it has complied with the Open Meeting Law in the hiring process for the position of Town Administrator.”

As chairman, O’Rourke has until May 9 to review the newspaper’s complaint and to forward a copy of the complaint and the town’s response to the Attorney General’s Office for its review of the matter.

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