Town Manager pact to be discussed with labor attorney
By Kaitlin Servant
Citizen Chronicle Writer
SOUTHBRIDGE — A vote to authorize Town Council leadership to seek legal counsel relative to the town manager’s contract resulted in flared tempers, departures, and a 5-0 affirmative vote.
In a roughly two hour meeting, which started fifteen minutes late due to a previous Council of the Whole meeting that ran long, the Town Council went through 31 agenda items in a routine manner. The items consisted primarily of subcommittee summaries, minor budget transfers and appointments. Most were passed unanimously by the eight councilors in attendance until they reached agenda item No. 29: “Vote to authorize the Town Council Chair and Vice Chair to seek legal Counsel from our labor attorney regarding the Council’s and the Town Manager’s contractual obligations including liability and personal exposure.”
Council Chairwoman Denise Clemence asserted consultation with legal counsel was needed as the town was in uncharted territory by being in the fourth year of the Town Manager’s three-year contract.
“The contract does not specify, nor has any previous contract specified this sort of thing,” she said.
Councilor Clemence went on to say that she and Council Vice Chairman Gus Steeves were willing to travel to meet legal counsel, theoretically a cost savings in not requiring lawyers to charge for their travel time.
“Is there there anything we should be doing or not doing as we move forward getting closer to that anniversary date? That is pretty much what this is. We are looking for a sense of direction,” Councilor Clemence insisted.
She claimed numerous councilors have independently approached her with concerns and questions about Town Manager Ron San Angelo’s contract situation.
Councilor Esteban Carrasco, Jr., expressed concerns with the agenda item being vague, while asserting the contract was very clear and didn’t require legal counsel. He went on to say that if counsel was obtained it should be for all councilors.
“I think we should all get that advice, not just two people,” Councilor Carrasco said. “I’ve always had a problem with that from the get go. I mentioned it last time. It’s going to cost the same amount of money for the lawyer to sit with you guys that it would cost to sit with all of us.”
Councilor Kristen Auclair echoed Councilor Carrasco’s sentiments and suggested that legal advice be given in executive session. As she was speaking, Councilor Clemence interrupted her, insisting she was going off topic. Councilor Auclair disagreed and attempted to continue, but was interrupted again before the Chairwoman ruled her out of order. Councilor Auclair attempted to appeal but that request was not acknowledged and she abruptly left the meeting.
Councilor Rick Nash also expressed his opinion that the agenda item was not framed properly and noted it wasn’t clear exactly what Town Council leadership would be asking counsel. He noted that Councilor Auclair “was 100 percent right,” and then gathered his meeting materials and left the meeting.
As the debate continued, Councilor Clemence noted Mr. San Angelo had been named a finalist for a similar position in another town. Councilor Carrasco expressed frustration with the comment.
“Why would you throw out his business like that?” Councilor Carrasco asked. He would leave the meeting similar to Councilors Auclair and Nash. Mr. San Angelo did not weigh in on the matter during the meeting.
After further discussion, the item was put to a vote and was passed unanimously by the five remaining councilors. Councilor Clemence said she would inform the Town Council of the results of the impending meeting with legal counsel.