Hadley Select Board affirms Nixon contract extension
HADLEY — Select Board members Wednesday defended their decision to negotiate and vote on a three-year contract renewal for Town Administrator David G. Nixon during an executive session in January after a former town official filed an Open Meeting Law complaint last week.
The board also took a unanimous vote in open session Wednesday to approve Nixon’s contract extension after he requested that the board do so.
“I formally request that you do it right now,” Nixon said to Select Board Chairman Daniel J. Dudkiewicz before the latter could finish addressing the issues raised in the complaint filed by John M. Allen, a former member of both the Select Board and Finance Committee.
The board voted 5-0 to approve Nixon’s contract. It was not clear how the board voted when it first approved the contract extension during an executive session Jan. 8.
In his complaint, Allen claims the board failed to give proper notice to the public about Nixon’s contract renewal and questioned its sometimes vague descriptions of reasons for executive sessions.
The board’s agenda for its Jan. 8 executive session, during which it negotiated and voted on Nixon’s contract, specifically stated “contract negotiations” and “Litigation: Mega v. Hadley,” as the purpose for the closed meeting.
On Wednesday, board members said they were within their rights to hold a closed meeting to negotiate and vote on Nixon’s contract. At the suggestion of Select Board member Guilford B. Mooring, the board agreed to be more specific in the future regarding its stated purposes for executive sessions.
“We did nothing illegal in going into executive session to discuss contract negotiations,” Select Board member Joyce A. Chunglo said.
The board’s minutes from the Jan. 8 executive session stated its members went into executive session to negotiate Nixon’s contract because doing so in public “would have an adverse effect on the town of Hadley.” The only changes in Nixon’s new contract that begins July 1 is that he is to receive 2 percent salary increases in each of the three years of the contract and that he be protected in legal matters involving the town should any actions be taken involving him after he leaves the job.
Allen’s complaint also cites concerns about the board never reviewing and releasing its executive session minutes as the Open Meeting Law requires. The law states that a public body shall “at reasonable intervals” review the minutes of executive session to determine if they continue to warrant non-disclosure.
The board and Nixon plan to take up that matter next week and begin reviewing executive session minutes for release to the public.
“I think the majority of the minutes, we will be able to release,” Nixon said.
The board has 14 days to formally respond to Allen’s Open Meeting Law complaint and explain how it addressed his concerns. That response must also be sent to the state Attorney General’s office, which enforces the law.
Dan Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.