Thomaston Town Manager Valmore Blastow Jr. read a prepared statement to the Board of Selectmen during its April 8 meeting regarding issues raised at a previous meeting.

At issue was a statement made in the public forum March 11 by Selectman Beverly St. Clair about an apparent unsubstantiated billing issue with the EMS department.

"I've heard three or four times since December that our EMS is having some billing issues that are significant," St. Clair stated, seeking acknowledgement from Chairman Peter Lammert and clarification as to why the issue had not been brought to the board as yet.

Lammert explained there was something possibly not being reviewed following EMS runs that took place at the end of 2018, and an amount of $18,000 came up.

Selectman Bill Hahn echoed St. Clair's concern, saying "Someone has to raise the issue."

In his statement, Blastow said the item was not on the agenda, nor was it brought to his attention by St. Clair before she made the statement in public.

"I was totally left in a position as town manager of not knowing what some board members were discussing, as I had not been advised for several months prior to this meeting," Blastow read.

After investigating the issue with EMS Chief Rusty Barnard, Blastow said, "He also confirmed the previous discussion in regards to $18,000 not being billed as being a totally false and unjustified statement."

Blastow said the same period of billing was reviewed with the provider, T.G. Higgins Associates, with an activity report totaling $16,547.52 being billed.

"I find all the public allegations as unfounded," Blastow said, adding, "The staff and personnel have a right to privacy. It cannot be breached by the Board of Selectpersons. It is wrong to criticize them in public, especially when the statements made about them are false and ruinous of their reputation."

Blastow went on to explain that the correct protocol would have been to notify the town manager. "The way of going about this matter was improper. It cannot happen again," he said. "It should never have been on the agenda for public comment or public review."

In conclusion, Blastow said, "While some may think this is permissible, reputable staff have become emotionally disturbed when publicly criticized. They have lost sleep, become irritable and upset, which is understandable. This type of public accusation of staff cannot happen again in this arena."

St. Clair responded by saying the statement was obviously addressed to her, and that she felt the reprimand should be directed at Lammert, not her.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.