Bourne Selectmen Extend Guerino's Contract ... Again
By: MICHAEL J. RAUSCH, June 17, 2014
The Bourne Board of Selectmen revoted approval of town administrator Thomas M. Guerino’s three-year contract on Tuesday, June 10.
In a repeat of last month’s results, the vote was 3-2 in favor of extending Mr. Guerino’s working agreement with the town.
Board chairman Peter J. Meier said the revote was necessary for two reasons.
First, Mr. Meier said that board member Linda M. Zuern had objected to a motion made prior to the original vote on May 13. The motion stated that only former chairman Earl V. Baldwin needed to sign the new contract. It was proposed by Mr. Guerino, then made into a motion by Mr. Meier and seconded. Ms. Zuern wanted the signatures of the entire board to appear on the contract.
Second, there were some alterations made to the contract that night, notably a change in the language regarding Mr. Guerino’s hours of work and compensatory time. The minutes from that meeting show that the wording was changed to read that the town administrator “will devote full time and attention to business to the town and will not engage in any other business during office hours, except with approval by the board [of selectmen].”
Mr. Meier said he was advised by town counsel Robert S. Troy that a revote on a clean and clear copy of the contract should be held, given Ms. Zuern’s objection and the changes that were only handwritten into the signed copy.
“I believe that it is in the best interest of the town to ratify a clean copy of that contract rather than have to deal with the formatting issues of the previous vote,” Mr. Troy said.
As they did last month, board members Donald J. Pickard and Ms. Zuern voted against extending Mr. Guerino’s contract.
On Tuesday night Mr. Pickard questioned Mr. Meier’s involvement in both the contract negotiation and approval process because Mr. Meier's mother, Marie C. Meier, is employed by the town. He noted that it was Mr. Troy who determined two years ago that, under the Home Rule Charter, Mr. Meier could not participate in any evaluation of, contract negotiation for, or vote regarding the continued employment of Mr. Guerino as town administrator.
Ms. Zuern said that she was also concerned that Mr. Meier had not been allowed to participate in any contract negotiations in the past two years.
Mr. Pickard questioned Mr. Troy about the attorney’s own determination regarding Mr. Meier’s status relative to participation in negotiations and votes pertaining to Mr. Guerino. The town counsel said that it would have to be determined what had been discussed in open session versus executive session, but that none of it could be brought up that night.
“That subject is not on the agenda,” he said.
Mr. Pickard then requested that the motion to vote on Mr. Guerino’s contract be withdrawn so the contract vote could be tabled to another night.
“Until which time we can determine whether or not you [Mr. Meier] participated in the negotiations, or you violated the ethics commission decision,” he said.
Member Steven F. Mealy asked Mr. Troy if there was any reason that all five members of the board could not vote on Mr. Guerino’s contract. Mr. Troy said he did not know of any reason.
“Because the town counsel has confirmed that there’s not a reason that he is aware of not to go forward with the vote, I would just as soon go ahead with a vote this evening,” Mr. Mealy said.
He added that if the board wanted to pursue questions about legalities, that could be done at a later date.
After the vote to approve the contract, Mr. Pickard requested that in the future the agenda for all selectmen’s meetings include, under the heading of Selectmen’s Business, “removal of the town administrator under the home rule charter.”
Member Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis said that would be overkill. Mr. Ellis suggested that thorough discussion of the issue once would be sufficient. Consistently addressing this particular issue, week after week, will “bog this board down,” he said.
“We will not be able to do the business of the town, and it will create and inflict damage to this board and to the town,” he said.
The board will address the issue at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 24.
Asked after the meeting about his presence during the negotiations, Mr. Meier said that he had approached the state ethics commission and was given approval by them to participate. He said that the commission gave him a letter of approval and told him to fill out a form which he then needed to file with the town clerk’s office. Mr. Meier said he filed the document with the town clerk’s office, per the commission’s instructions. He added that the ethics commission said he was under no obligation to share their letter with him, and that the contents of the letter are confidential. Mr. Meier said that Mr. Pickard was aware of his actions, as well as the confidentiality of his letter from the ethics commission, ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting.
“I have done nothing wrong,” he said.