By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND -- Selectmen will discuss a letter they received from the Board of Water Commissioners alleging that the contract for Water Department employees was negotiated illegally.
The letter, dated April 13 and included in the agenda packet for the Board of Selectmen's meeting tonight, states Board of Selectmen and union representatives signed a union contract for the Highway and Water Department on March 18.
On March 19, the Board of Water Commissioners downloaded the agreement from the town's website and reviewed it for the first time, according to the letter written by Andrea Wood, the clerk of the Board of Water Commissioners.
"We, the Board of Commissioners, are formally contesting the legality and authority granted to the Board of Selectmen in the above referenced agreement," she wrote.
According to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 41, Section 69B, the water commissioners have exclusive charge and control of the Water Department and water system.
While the commissioners do not dispute the benefits agreed upon in the contract, according to the letter, they contest the fact that the board was not "consulted nor involved in the negotiation process."
The letter goes on to say that the commissioners "do not believe it is fair to dispute the benefits that may or may not have been negotiated in good faith.
The Board of Water Commissioners has never assigned its authority to the Board of Selectmen and are "questioning the legality of this contract."
The letter continues, "Additionally, let it be known, we, the Board of Water Commissioners were never consulted or spoken to about any of the process of ground rules, despite repeated attempts to obtain information from the office of the Board of Selectmen."
It goes on to say that the commissioners believe "this contract has reassigned the duties as afforded by law to the Board of Water Commissioners over to the Board of Selectmen."
The commissioners also allege in the letter that they were not allowed to read the memorandum of agreement or the final agreement before it was posted on the town's website.
"In understanding this is the Water Department employee's first contract, we realize there may be confusion on the part of (the) union, however, we would like to work cooperatively to resolve these oversights and misunderstandings," the letter reads.
Town Administrator Andy Sheehan was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.
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