Union treasurer referendum recount scheduled for Nov. 30

Selectman admits to approving, not reading public letter
By Bane Okholm | Nov 22, 2012

Union — A recount of ballots from the Nov. 6 election regarding Union Municipal Referendum Article 2 has been scheduled for Friday, Nov. 30 at 1 p.m.

The referendum, which sought to change the role of treasurer from an elected to an appointed post, failed by four votes — 665 in favor to 669 opposed.

According to Union Town Manager Jay Feyler, two Democrat and two Republican ballot counters from both Democrat and Republican parties will participate in the recount, which will be overseen by Union Town Clerk Marcy Corwin.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Elmer "Buddy" Savage said that, due to the narrow margin of votes, he would have supported a recount regardless of which side held the advantage.

Contentious communiqué

Debate about a three-page, memo-style letter regarding the issue that was sent in late October dominated the Nov. 20 select board meeting.

The letter, dated Oct. 30, summarized the select board's basis for putting the appointment referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, and concluded with a copy of the legal article itself.

In a public hearing Oct. 16, the select board cited erroneous financial records and the treasurer position's lack of accountability to any in-house authority as motivation for the change. The board quoted a report by auditing firm RHR Smith & Company that identified five "significant deficiencies" and three "material weaknesses" in the town's financial processes.

Complicating matters is the absence of 25-year Union Treasurer Linda McAllister, who is currently not attending work due to medical reasons.

At the Oct. 16 public hearing, Union resident Sybil Wentworth said that the selectmen are blaming McAllister "for taking protected medical leave," and making her a scapegoat for the findings from RHR Smith & Company's 2011 audit.

Four of the five Union selectmen endorsed the change. Selectman Sara Moore dissented, saying, "To me it's just one more little piece being taken away that you, the people of the town of Union are not going to have a say in."

In a letter to Union citizens dated Oct. 30, the select board wrote, "Since our public hearing, more problems have arisen. We have been notified that the treasurer will not be back until at least the end of November. Again, no provisions have been made for the town's business to be done...if the current situation continues, the town will certainly face a significant overdraft in the treasurer's line of the budget."

Savage, who co-authored the letter along with Selectman Lyle Cramer, said at the Nov. 20 meeting that the letter was sent using the mailing system that is also used to distribute tax documents to town citizens. According to Savage, the letter is a re-draft of a version that a third party informed them contained confidential information.

Board of Selectmen Co-Chairman Greg Grotton quoted a message from Jay Feyler that had accompanied the final letter draft when it was emailed to the select board.

"'Buddy asked that I send this to all of you and have you email to all of us any corrections, suggestions, by Sunday night,'" Grotton read. "This was acknowledged by all with, "It looks good,' and, 'It's good for me.'"

Selectman Sara Moore was silent during the initial part of the discussion, but spoke up after Savage asked her, "Do you understand our dilemma about the letter, and the approval of the letter?"

"I got on my computer to look for [the letter in my email], and I am not a computer expert, and I must have hit the wrong button because I never saw it...I never saw it before it went out," Moore said.

Savage said that Moore had approached him at his house several days after the letter had been sent, telling him that she had not seen the letter prior to its release.

"I probably hit the wrong button on my machine," Moore reiterated.

Grotton provided Moore with a document purported to be a hard copy of the emails exchanged between board members. "Says right here," Grotton said, indicating the document, "'Buddy asked that I send this to all of you.'"

"I saw that," Moore interrupted.

"And then the next response, you can see it right here: 'Looks good to me, Buddy - Greg.' And then the next response above it, what's it say?" Grotton asked.

"'Looks good to me, too,'" Moore read. "Yup...I typed it in there, yes, but I hadn't read the letter yet, and when I went to get the letter, it was gone."

The selectmen said that they are not responsible for the circulation of a different notice urging citizens to vote to change the treasurer's post to an appointed position.

A copy of the notice obtained by The Courier-Gazette contains unattributed quotes from Feyler from the Oct. 16 public hearing. Feyler denies creating or propagating the document, which is signed, "Pd (sic) for by a concerned citizen."

Selectmen also reacted strongly against insinuations that they were withholding or deliberately altering information regarding the treasurer referendum.

"You better watch who you're calling liars," Savage said. "I've come just about as far as I can come with people calling me a liar."

"I am not a liar, I will not lie to sit up here or for this town. We have one goal, and that is to do the best we can for this town," said Grotton. "Let's put [this issue] behind us, for Christ's sake, and move on."

Courier Publications reporter Bane Okholm can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at bokholm@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (11)
Posted by: Ed Allen | Nov 25, 2012 16:05

I will take the letter that I have down to 62 Union street in Rockland when i get out of work on monday.



Posted by: betty anne mccommic | Nov 25, 2012 08:28

Very well said and to the point. I agree with this.

 



Posted by: Ed Allen | Nov 24, 2012 13:12

Thats so funny. I heard that same story yesterday when i was around town.



Posted by: Anthony Charles Taylor | Nov 24, 2012 09:30

Town Treasurer, Linda McAllister, has been an irrtant to many selectmen over the years, especially the chairmen of the Board who have been so pissed off time and time again when Linda would stand in the way of shady dealings with Town funds and budget juggling.

 

From my own experience, I can say that the Town owes Linda a big debt of gratitude for her diligence and courage in protecting the Town's interests and withstanding the unpleasant consequences from the Board for doing so.  It has been common practice and is probably the main reason why the Board has repeatedly pushed so hard to have the position appointed rather than elected by the Town's citizens.  Board members, and not the town manager, resent the fact that the treasurer cannot be controlled by them and has accountability only to the people of the Town.  Someone should report the cost of repeatedly having this matter put before the Town, along with the cost of mailings and other means of trying to affect the outcome of each vote.

 

Someone should also remind the Town Office staff, including the town manager, that they work for the people of Union.  Their assignment is to be polite and objective in providing services to townspeople and to keep their bias and rudeness under wraps.  It is absurd that office personnel were allowed to refuse to service as deputy treasurers and that the town manager's hatred for Linda McAllister has been permitted to manifest in creating an atmosphere of contempt and unreliable input.  He can deny it all he wants, but it is clear that he heads the movement against Linda that has been cheerfully joined by the women in the office who cannot seem to be mindful of their place.

 

The Board of Selectmen (and lady) being duped by the proverbial fox in the chicken coup by putting so much stock - or any at all! - in the integrity and purpose of the town manager.  It is a known fact that he despises the lack of control over the treasurer and will do anything to get rid of her.  Further, the Board, with the exception of Mrs. Moore, is obvious in its motives and negligent in not providing the Town with any positive things in the auditor's report.  Their glee in providing negative aspects of the report speaks for their eagerness to have their way with one of the Town's last elected positions.

 

The town manager and Board of Selectmen would do well to focus on services and be as eager to better meet the Town's needs with reasonable office hours and a staff that knows its place and purpose without the condescending demeanor that prevails from most staff members.  The Board of Selectmen should also meets its responsibility in letting the Town know what it costs for personnel pay and benefits per hour that the Town Office is (and is not) open for business.  In fact, full disclosure and itemization should be demanded by Union's taxpayers!

 

If the people of Union permit things to continue as they are at the Town Office, they should be afraid...very afraid...of ethical and legal monsters that will inevitably come to Town!

 

And, why has the Town Report never been dedicated to a treasurer that has served the Town for nearly 30 years with loyalty and commitment that is rarely matched...?

 

 



Posted by: DA Taylor | Nov 23, 2012 07:09

These are the reasons that I no longer live in Union.  I grew up in S Union and my family has strong roots there.  I use to love it but after my "go around" with the spineless local yokels about permits and ordinance issues I decided it was a losing battle.  After much money to lawyers the town was forced to admit that I was unjustly treated and permits were reinstated.  Too late.  Hang in there Linda and know that people do support you.  I fear that you will never be able to resume the job for reasons I'm sure you know.  Just be sure that you're justly compensated. I might add that it appears that it wouldn't hurt to end the selectmen meetings with a word of prayer to Christ,not in spite of Him!!

Dennis A. Taylor SR.



Posted by: Bill Packard | Nov 22, 2012 18:31

The board doesn't seem to realize that the people are upset about the way this was handled, not the elected vs. appointed issue.  Everything from the initial discussion to the letter were personal and questioned the credibility of the treasurer.  Nobody should be treated like that in public.  Even public employees who commit crimes are not subject to the treatment Linda has had.  Then the board members can't understand why the public is upset with them and they take it personally.  Theboard has made it personal toward Linda, but they take issue when people make it personal about them. t's sad that we treat an employee in Union the way the treasurer has been treated.

I spoke before the board about a roads issue and was seriously berated for bringing it up.  I wrote the board an apology letter for bothering them and after the way I was treated will probably never attend or speak at a selectmen's meeting again.



Posted by: betty anne mccommic | Nov 22, 2012 18:23

My sentiments exactly.Watch your back Sally/



Posted by: betty anne mccommic | Nov 22, 2012 18:07

I can not believe the people in union will not step up and put a stop to this crap. you dont need a town manager as i said before . Somebody is scared i would guess and as for buddy which i do not know Ihear he is problems. Maybe you need to replace all  that is holding positions. Leave Linda alone!!!!



Posted by: Ed Allen | Nov 22, 2012 14:27

Sounds like somebody didn't think it was going to be this hard of a fight to get rid of a 25 year vet. Well boys you better pack a lunch. Oh and stack the deck in your faver. Oh one more thing put your big boy pants on.



Posted by: Carleton C Ingerson | Nov 22, 2012 12:41

A bunch of poor losers....They lost once, I hope they lose again. And they wonder why people don't bother to vote. What good does it do??  The powers that be will keep pushing until they somehow manage to get what they want. Hang in there Linda.



Posted by: Ed Allen | Nov 22, 2012 09:28

Stick to your guns Sally. You will most likley be on the next hit list. Sounds like that to me.



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