By Mina Corpuz
PEPPERELL -- Selectman Lisa Ferolito is the subject of multiple complaints by town employees.
An employee that was not named filed a complaint against Ferolito. Treasurer Debbie Nutter filed complaints against Ferolito in 2016 for workplace harassment and improper disclosure of personal information.
John Flick of the Flick Law Group in Gardner was unanimously approved as the independent investigator to look into the newer complaint.
Bob Hennigan, a Worcester lawyer appointed as an independent investigator by the board, shared his report about an August 2016 workplace harassment complaint Nutter made against Ferolito.
The claim stems from inquiry Ferolito made to the town administrator about why the treasurer's office closed for one day in August. Nutter had been given permission to attend an event and the assistant treasurer was not able to cover for her in the office.
Hennigan found that Ferolito violated the town's employee harassment policy by allegedly using her position as a selectman to raise the issue about the office closing with the town administrator. That behavior allegedly interfered with Nutter's ability to do her job and created a hostile workplace environment, he said.
Because town employee policy or bylaws don't address how to handle the situation, Hennigan recommended that the board adopt a code of conduct.
Chair Melissa Tzanoudakis supported the idea of having a code to hold every one in town accountable.
"Accountable for asking a question?" Ferolito said.
The board voted 2 to 1 to start the process of adopting a code.
Another related complaint by Nutter was about improper disclosure of confidential information.
After getting a copy of the complaint, Ferolito said she spoke about it with a member of the public. That person wrote about the complaint in a private group on Facebook.
State law says personal information of a named individual is exempt from public record if disclosure of it can lead to an unnecessary invasion of privacy.
Another law states municipal employees can't knowingly distribute protected information.
Hennigan found that Ferolito violated those state laws.
He recommended that the board and town counsel should decide whether to forward information about the action to the state ethics commission. The board voted 2 to 1 to do so.
In response to both complaints, Ferolito said she did not violate any rules or laws and that discussion by selectmen about the town and administration is protected by the First Amendment.
She added there wasn't any invasion of privacy because Nutter "voluntarily inserted herself into a public process."
Although discussion about the complaints came up during a public session, attendees were not allowed to participate.