A few columns back I wrote about RSA 91-A and the continuing efforts by the Right to Know Commission to slip a loophole into the law that would allow sequential meetings. I have been writing about this sneaky maneuver for several years and came upon an article in a local newspaper that shows exactly what will be happening all over NH in an accelerated pattern as soon as elected officials find out there are no repercussions to secret meetings.
In this instance I read the news article and spotted what looked like decisions being made by Selectmen in Hillsboro who “voted’ to not renew the Town Administrator’s contract. I went to the Hillsboro Town Hall, got the minutes for myself and knowing nothing else but human nature, 91-A and what was in the newspapers – wrote the story. The Title was Pour Some Coffey For Poor Mr. Coffey.
I sent Mr. Coffey a copy and here is what he wrote back to me with permission to print:
You are right on target with what you got out of the minutes. The only exception is that the former selectman, Snair, did not quit but came in third in a three way race which was won by Joseph Collins. As to Snair's dirt on me, I have no idea what he had in mind and in the end neither did his attorney or the LGC. You are (very) probably correct about there being some email or telephone meetings before the January 29 meeting. The Board went into the non-public session for a discussion that "could affect a person's reputation other than a member of the board," very different than the one that considers dismissal, promotion or an evaluation. I knew that I was their subject but expected at some point to meet with the Board. When they came into public session I was in effect to that I was being fired on June 9. So much for granting a courtesy. Asking me to help with my demise seems a bit strange.
My present employment agreement resulted from the settlement of last year's debacle. It requires performance feedback which has never been done. As far I am concerned it is a public record and anyone can obtain a copy of it. I also do not believe that a majority of the Board has read the agreement. The only reason given for my dismissal was a cryptic statement by Collins in the non-public minutes, that he wrote, referring to the need for new eyes and management in the town office. He writes this after praising me for 15 years of success. (I have had two retina reattachments and a laser cataract procedure but I have 20-20 with glasses.) The bottom line is I was fired without a single word said to me about why or any discussion offered by what appears to be a prearranged set up.
The letter mentioned in the minutes never formally existed. It was a draft sent to the Chairman by email for his thoughts. It was never signed and was clearly a draft that I never presented to the Board. It was sent to the Chairman because under the employment agreement I reported to the Chairman, not the Board. My desire was to work through the 2009 town meeting and along the way revise the various town office job descriptions, and my own, and assist in an a transition to a new administrator.
The real issue here is the Board's procedures and violation of law. It starts with RSA 91A ends with some other legal questions, including age discrimination. I share your apparent concern for back room deals and the weakening of 91A, overall you hit the nail on the head.
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in ensuring RSA 91A does not get weakened.
So is tampering with 91-A to allow more of this GOOD for municipalities?
The Hillsboro Selectmen obviously passed a letter among each other and secretly met to plan this non-renewal. They could cause a second lawsuit in listing their reason for going into non-public session (legal) to discuss the REPUTATION of a person then coming to a "consensus" to not renew Mr. Coffet's contract but not actually VOTING to do so.
Governor Lynch should veto this latest version of the RTK Commission's Frankenstein legislation if the Senate doesn't kill it for the third time.