GROTON -- Conceding that re-appointing the defunct Personnel Board would do no harm, selectmen voted to advertise three openings on the panel charged with dealing with nonunion employee complaints.

The action came Monday after the reading of replies from the town's legal counsel to questions raised about the need for selectmen to reappoint the Personnel Board.

The issue was first raised by Selectman Jack Petropoulos a few weeks ago when he insisted that a Town Meeting vote specifically intended that the Personnel Board be continued even though the new town Charter did not provide for it.

At the time, selectmen had voted to discontinue the board, setting up a conflict between the charter and the bylaw that was upheld by residents.

As a result, the Personnel Board is still on the books covered by a bylaw that has, nevertheless, been overlooked by selectmen who have not appointed any members to it nor advertised its existence.

It was Petropoulos' contention raised at the board's meeting Feb. 25 that the town needed the board to handle issues such as resignations and complaints that have surfaced in past months and pressed the issue at a followup meeting March 11.

That meeting ended with board members voting to remand the question to the Bylaw Review Committee for study and Petropoulos submitting related questions to counsel David Doneski.

Counsel's replies were received and read Monday night.


There, he found that in the bylaw giving selectmen the power to appoint a Personnel Board, it did not necessarily mean they had to do it.

The key opinion however, dealt with the Town Meeting vote that preserved the bylaw dealing with the Personnel Board: "...the vote of town meeting...does not have the legal force of a requirement that the Board of Selectmen act to appoint members to a Personnel Board...the direct consequence of the vote is to leave in place a bylaw providing for the existence of a Personnel Board."

Given the inherent inconsistency between the requirement to have a board and no need for selectmen to act to appoint one, counsel had a number of recommendations to solve the dilemma: modify the bylaw at Town Meeting, eliminate the board at Town Meeting, or appoint a Personnel Board.

Petropoulos took the position that selectmen could not fail to appoint a board simply on the grounds that there was a conflict.

Selectman Peter Cunningham, however, felt the intent of Town Meeting was to preserve a grievance process, not necessarily to keep a Personnel Board.

"That was my takeaway from Town Meeting," concluded Cunningham.

Electric Light Commissioner Kevin Lindemer dissented, warning that taking Town Meeting votes as only "suggestions" would set a dangerous precedent.

Selectman Joshua Degen noted that the Town Meeting vote only authorized selectmen to appoint a Personnel Board, it did not mandate it.

DPW Director Tom Delaney reminded selectmen how it was frequently difficult dealing with the Personnel Board when it had existed, but to quash rumors going around that employees were "scared" of bringing their complaints to Town Manager Mark Haddad, it was necessary to take some action to settle the issue.

Rising to Haddad's defense was Degen, who called him a "very fair" town manager.

"How could it hurt if we appointed a Personnel Board?" asked board Chairman Stuart Schulman in a sharp reversal from previous meetings.

If a board were to be appointed by selectmen, said Schulman, it was unlikely that it would be called upon to consider any complaints before the Bylaw Review Committee could do its job and a recommendation for or against be prepared for special Town Meeting in the fall.

"It would take the issue off the front burner," said Cunningha, who added there were more important things for the board to tackle without having to continue wrestling with the Personnel Board issue.