GROTON -- Town Manager Mark Haddad butted heads with Fire Department Task Force Study Committee member Jenifer Evans, who was the only vote against expanding the town's fire department work force, during a sometimes loud and quite often heated discussion at Monday night's public meeting of the Select Board.
But the adversarial rhetoric between Evans and town officials predates this meeting, which saw the committee vote 4-1 in favor of moving forward with the department's request for four more firefighters.
Selectman Josh Degen had earlier filed a formal Open Meeting Law Complaint against the committee when it was learned that she had sent emails about the committee's dealings, a violation of public meeting laws which call for every item of discourse be heard in an open forum. According to sources close to the matter and present at Monday's meeting, "the committee made a mistake," Evans said when the topic arose.
"Not just me," Evans said according to the source, "You Mark, should have said something because you're the expert on the open meeting law."
"Don't turn this on me Jenifer," Haddad said.
According to a person present at the meeting, Haddad abruptly departed the room, saying, "I'm not going to listen to this."
He returned a few minutes later to finish his presentation. Haddad confirmed the exchange, adding, "It'd be nice if people who made mistakes owned up to them instead of trying to blame others.
The email in question, that Evans sent out to fellow committee members Peter Myette, An Hee Foley, Ryan Monat and John Kane as well as Haddad and fire chief Steele McCurdy, and which prompted Degen's complaint to the town clerk, was read aloud at the meeting.
In it, Evans details her concern for the committee's less than thorough analysis, stating, "The committee failed to truly consider alternatives." And added, "I feel this committee has been a dog-and-pony show."
Haddad said neither the unauthorized email nor the discordant exchange had any effect on the outcome of the vote. One resident who attended the meeting, Jeff Wallens said that Haddad suggested Evans read the email aloud. "The remedy was to read the read the email in public so it becomes part of the minutes," said Wallens. "That happened after the loud exchange, and she did read it. She handled it poorly and he handled it poorly."
Evans could not be reached for comment.