DEVENS - At the Oct. 3 Joint Boards of Selectmen (JBOS) meeting, the panelists defended their administrator's pay rate, hired an attorney, and sent a chilly message to Harvard.
JBOS Administrative Assistant Liz Garner reported that the JBOS bank account stood at $47,187.57 as of Sept. 24. After Garner's treasury report, Vice Chair and Ayer selectman Frank Maxant said he'd been asked recently about Garner's timesheets. Garner has worked part time for the board since October 2009.
It was just the day before that Harvard Selectmen Chairman Lucy Wallace commented at the Oct. 2 Harvard selectmen's meeting that JBOS funds served primarily these days to pay Garner.
Maxant said any concern over Garner's pay rate is "not warranted by the facts as I see them."
Upon request by Nashoba Publishing, the JBOS released Garner's timesheets for calendar year 2012. For the first quarter (January, February and March 2012), Garner was paid $2,292.48. Garner billed 32 hours for each month, for a total of 96 billable hours in Q1. Garner is compensated at the rate of $23.88 per hour.
Garner billed 32 hours for each month April and May, and 25 hours for June. Her second quarter invoice was for $2,125.32 (89 hours work). For the third quarter, Garner billed 32 hours each for July and August, and 16 hours for September. Garner's billable hours for the third quarter totaled 80 hours and she was compensated $1,910.
Garner's time sheets are self-submitted, and then signed by JBOS Chair Tom Kinch and Glenn Eaton, the Executive Director of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC). Garner also works as a workshop planning consultant to MRPC.
"If we were to see anything, she'd be more inclined to under-report her hours," said Maxant. If hours were ever over-stated, Maxant said "Then I'm sure our chairman is alert enough to nip it in the bud and make sure it never repeats."
"On many occasion, the administrator goes over the hourly rate and doesn't charge," said Shirley JBOS representative Rico Cappucci, who is a former Shirley selectman and former JBOS Chairman. "That speaks well to the administrator. I support everything Frank just said."
Cappucci noted that there was once volunteer clerical support for the preparation of JBOS agendas, but that a volunteer "didn't do what the present administrator does Frank expressed himself. I support that 100 percent. We're lucky we have this situation we're in."
"As long as I've been the chairman, the administrator has logged her hours that are ready for review by anybody," said Kinch. "The responsibilities of the JBOS and anybody associated with the JBOS seem to be under some kind of microscope."
In May, Kinch proposed providing Garner more time on an as-needed basis. Though it wasn't on that evening's agenda or first vetted by the individual boards of selectmen, on May 24 the JBOS voted unanimously to increase Garner's maximum billable hours to 90 per month. The vote appears to run contrary to the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the JBOS communities of Ayer, Devens, Harvard and Shirley.
The MOU states "voting members of the JBOS are representatives of their respective appointing entities. They may act upon administrative items such as approving meeting minutes or make recommendations to be taken back to their respective communities. They cannot take any action at JBOS that binds their appointing authority."
Garner's hours were increased two months after the March 28 "Super Town Meeting" vote. Boston developer Trinity Financial failed to win Ayer and Harvard Town Meeting support to rezone Vicksburg Square to allow a low income housing project on the Devens campus. Only Shirley voters approved the proposal.
Since Super Town Meeting, interest in the JBOS waned. The three Shirley selectmen appointed Cappucci to attend JBOS meetings in their stead, vocalizing their belief that the JBOS was a waste of time. The Harvard selectmen are shunning regular JBOS meeting attendance, opting to attend only on an as-needed basis.
--HYDE HIRED AS JBOS COUNSEL
On Oct. 3 the JBOS voted unanimously to retain Shirley attorney Ernest Hyde to represent the board. The vote was conditioned on Hyde's acceptance of the job. The board invited Hyde to attend its next regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 25.
The issue of hiring an attorney was on the agenda for the regularly-scheduled Sept. 27 meeting as "JBOS Legal Representation." Due to a lack of quorum, that meeting was rescheduled to the afternoon of Oct. 3.
Like the springtime vote to increase Garner's hours, the individual Boards of Selectmen did not vote on the need to hire legal counsel. The three boards had convened in the days immediately preceding the Oct. 3 JBOS meeting (the Shirley selectmen met on Oct. 1; both the Harvard and the Ayer selectmen met on Oct. 2).
Hyde's pay rate was not discussed. No other attorney's names surfaced during the JBOS deliberations.
--I HOPE HARVARD ISN'T GOING TO WALTZ IN HERE "
The JBOS chairmanship rotates alphabetically among the four member communities. Last year, Ayer led the board. . This term the chairmanship is held by Kinch as appointee of the Devens Committee. Harvard is next in line for the chairmanship, followed by Shirley.
But Harvard has opted against regular attendance at JBOS meetings in recent months. Cappucci is Shirley's volunteer representative. There's no Shirley alternate JBOS member.
Ayer selectman Frank Maxant represents his board. No other Ayer selectman would volunteer to serve as a JBOS alternate. Devens Committee members Kinch and Phil Crosby serve as the primary and the alternate JBOS members, representing residents of the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone.
Maxant said he was pleased with Kinch's leadership. "I wanted to get that on the [video] tape."
"I hope Harvard isn't going to waltz in here and take over this board," said Cappucci. "They wouldn't come in and they wouldn't attend the meetings and nothing would get done... We'd have to leave it up to the Vice Chair to run the meetings."
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there,"" responded Kinch.
Kinch's first meeting as JBOS Chair was on Dec. 15, 2011. His one year term expires with the December JBOS meeting.
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.