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Another mess

Conway Selectboard members find themselves in a mess of their own making, at least in part.

Most recently a charge has been leveled that they violated the state Open Meeting Law, a claim that Chairman John O’Rourke quickly denied. What makes this more intriguing is that it’s their own former town administrator, Ed MacDonald, who brought the charge.

If you believe O’Rourke, however, MacDonald’s motivation here has less to do with protecting the public’s interest and more with his own interests. It seems MacDonald is trying to squeeze all the benefit he can, in financial terms, following his resignation after seven weeks on the job.

Sour grapes could also certainly enter into this picture.

MacDonald had been on the job just a few weeks when, with no public explanation, he turned in his resignation letter, which included a 30-day notice. In the ensuing days, Selectboard members discovered that MacDonald had never actually quit his previous job as part-time administrator with the town of Chester. This led to their decision to terminate his employment before the 30 days were up.

So, MacDonald, Conway’s first full-time administrator, is now asking the town to pay him for a range of benefits he says he technically earned on his first day of work, including hours of unused annual vacation and sick time. He also thinks he should be paid for those 30 days of notice that he never got to serve out.

So what does this have to do with a possible violation of the Open Meeting Law?

MacDonald, through his attorney, says the violation took place “... because such employment termination issue was not identified in any notice for that meeting and the vote to terminate appeared to be a fait accompli.”

His early dismissal isn’t the only time that MacDonald alleges that Selectboard met in secret or handled town business outside the confines of what state law allows.

The ex-administrator said Selectboard members also violated the law when it came to the hiring of a new highway superintendent, something they also say is unfounded.

We suspect determining whether Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law, or has run afoul of labor rules governing benefits and pay, is going to depend upon the legal wrangling that seems likely between MacDonald and the town, and maybe eventually before a judge.

But there may be residents who see this as another red flag when it comes to this board, particularly following on the heels of Selectboard’s making plans for 11 acres of town-owned property off Shelburne Falls Road, plans that too many other residents felt they were in the dark about.

Stay tuned.

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