Rockport Select Board members again met in executive session to discuss a personnel matter March 6.

According to the agenda for the meeting, the session was called “to receive and resolve a personnel complaint.”

Following more than an hour behind closed doors, select board members made two motions regarding personnel. The first unanimously approved motion stated the select board accepts the report of "acting Equal Opportunity Officer M. Hewey" that states a finding of "no basis for the complaints submitted Jan. 15 and Feb. 1 and are taking no further action in the matter."

A second motion, also unanimously approved, stated the town will "pay all legal expenses of certain town employees with the recent personnel investigation in the amount of $3,040."

Attending the March 6 executive session were all five select board members — Chairman William Chapman, Vice Chairman Charlton Ames, Ken McKinley, Geoffrey Parker and Tracy Lee Murphy — as well as town employees Assessor Kerry Leichtman and Finance Director Virginia Lindsey.

Executive session rules

As cited by Rockport Select Board agendas, the executive sessions are called "pursuant to Title 1 M.S.R.A. Section 405, which reads, in part:
"6. Permitted deliberation. Deliberations on only the following matters may be conducted during an executive session:
A. Discussion or consideration of the employment, appointment, assignment, duties, promotion, demotion, compensation, evaluation, disciplining, resignation or dismissal of an individual or group of public officials, appointees or employees of the body or agency or the investigation or hearing of charges or complaints against a person or persons subject to the following conditions:
(1) An executive session may be held only if public discussion could be reasonably expected to cause damage to the individual's reputation or the individual's right to privacy would be violated;
(2) Any person charged or investigated must be permitted to be present at an executive session if that person so desires;
(3) Any person charged or investigated may request in writing that the investigation or hearing of charges or complaints against that person be conducted in open session. A request, if made to the agency, must be honored; and
(4) Any person bringing charges, complaints or allegations of misconduct against the individual under discussion must be permitted to be present."

In recent months, selectmen have met in executive session numerous times to address personnel complaints. One executive session led to the hire of an investigator — attorney Melissa Hewey — by town officials. A written report was submitted to selectmen but has not been made public due to its address of a personnel issue.

Selectmen have declined to identify which town staff member or officials were investigated but since the end of January, two town employees have resigned or been terminated.

Town Manager Robert Peabody Jr., after more than two weeks of paid administrative leave, resigned his position Feb. 14. Peabody was paid a lump sum totaling 12 weeks of his regular salary as severance pay in addition to payment for unused sick and vacation time. At the time, Town Clerk Linda Greenlaw, in her capacity as acting town manager, said the town paid Peabody $52,836.84. The agreement states both Peabody and the town are to refrain from making "defamatory or disparaging" remarks for two years as well as placing limitations on lawsuits for both parties. Peabody was town manager for nearly eight years.

A week prior to Peabody's resignation, Feb. 7, Greenlaw, again in her capacity as acting town manager, fired an executive assistant. The town staffer was a probationary employee, according to a letter of termination sent by Greenlaw.

The letter states the probationary period allows for the town department head to "observe the employee in the actual work environment to judge how well they accomplish tasks, measure up to the department head's expectations, and how well they 'fit' with the organization. Ms. [Virgina] Lindsey and Mr. [Kerry] Leichtman has recommended that your employment with the town be terminated."

Select board members also considered applications to the town manager search committee in executive session March 6. Of 26 people who expressed interest in being appointed to the committee, 13 addressed the select board in two-minute speeches. Two previous applicants — Alexandra "Sani" Fogel and Doug Linder — withdrew their applications earlier in the day, according to Chapman.

Names still in the running include Leon Bausch, Greg Blackwell, James Chalfant, Tom Cox, Jan Dolcater, William Gartley, Kimberlee Graffam, Gene Graves, Linda Greenlaw, Leni Gronros, Peter Hall, Michelle Heald, Zachary Herrick, David Jackson, Carl Mahoney, Mark Masterson, Kathleen Meil, Allen Mitchell, John Osgood, Richard Remsen, Jan Rosenbaum, Betsy Saltonstall, Molly Sholes, Sharon Stone, John Viehman and Tracy Wakeford, according to a list furnished by Greenlaw.

Camden Herald Associate Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or sgrinnell@courierpublicationsllc.com.