Jul 172014

The Groton Board of Selectmen will meet in a highly unusual 7:30 a.m. meeting tomorrow, Friday, July 18, to conduct hearings into four complaints against town officials and employees. The meeting may last several hours, possibly until 3 p.m. — the meeting room is booked for the selectmen’s meeting all day. The only item on the posted agenda is an executive session, a meeting conducted behind closed doors.

The complaints were by four call firefighters who either lost their jobs or resigned in the wake of town investigations this spring. The town will not release the complaints because they are both under investigation as part of a personnel matter and because they may be precursors to one or more lawsuits.

Former Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and former firefighters Ben Miele and Steve Tervo were not reappointed to their jobs in June as a result of an investigation by Town Manager Mark Haddad, who reported in an email to selectmen on June 5 that he believed Jefferson lied to him during an investigation and thought he may have leaked confidential information; because one of the firefighters (not identified by name) “has an awful attitude;” and because the second was “less than truthful.” A fourth firefighter, James Horan, resigned because of an earlier investigation and actions he alleges town officials took after he organized meetings between call firefighters and a Teamsters union organizer.

Haddad wrote in another email that he made no notes during his interviews and investigation, and wrote no reports or opinions other than the conclusions he sent in the June 5 email to selectmen.

All four firefighters filed complaints with the town in the wake of their terminations. Friday’s hearings are the result — selectmen will collect testimony from the town officials named in the complaints, but not hear from the firefighters who filed the complaints. Town hall sources and local attorneys not related to the case said that Town Counsel Brian Maser would routinely recommend that town officials who are called to testify should speak in closed executive session. Each has the option to speak in open public session and to respond to the charges against him or her publicly. If they speak in public session, the testimony could be used in subsequent legal proceedings.

If the town officials and employees speak in executive session, as expected, their testimony would not be made public.

After the selectmen gather information from the accused employees, they deliberate on the information they gather and render an opinion on the validity of the complaints. Although the board’s ruling on the complaints is likely to be delivered in an open meeting, the deliberations are usually not public, and the board is not under any obligation to explain the reasons behind its conclusion.