DEVENS -- At the Oct. 3 Joint Boards of Selectmen 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 Chairman and Ayer Selectman Frank Maxant said he'd been asked recently about Garner's time sheets. Garner has worked part time for the board since October 2009.
It was just the day before that Harvard Selectmen Chairwoman 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 time sheets for calendar year 2012. Through Sept. 30, Garner has been compensated $6,328.20 in calendar year 2012.
Garner is paid $23.88 per hour. Garner billed 32 hours each for the months of January, February and March and was compensated $2,292.48. Garner billed 32 hours for each April and May, and 25 hours for June for a second quarter payment of $2,125.32. For the third quarter, Garner billed 32 hours for each July and August, and 16 hours for September for a third quarter payment of $1,910.40.
Garner's time sheets are signed by JBOS Chairman Tom Kinch of Devens and Glenn Eaton, the executive director of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission. 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 occasions, 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."
Straying from the posted meeting agenda on May 24, Kinch proposed Garner be given more hours to use on an as-needed basis. Though the idea hadn't been vetted by the individual boards of selectmen, Kinch, Maxant and Cappucci unanimously voted on May 24 to increase Garner's maximum billable hours to 90 per month.
The vote runs contrary to the 2010 memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the selectmen of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley and Devens Committee members. The MOU dictates that JBOS representatives would first vet substantive matters with their respective boards before the JBOS takes action.
"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," states the 2010 MOU. "They cannot take any action at JBOS that binds their appointing authority."
Garner's hours were increased two months after the failed March 28 Super Town Meeting attempt by Boston developer Trinity Financial to rezone Vicksburg Square on Devens to convert the campus into a low-income housing project. While Shirley Town Meeting said yes, Ayer and Harvard Town Meetings voted no. All three towns must agree to effectuate zoning changes within the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone.
According to the 2010 MOU, "The JBOS will work towards a recommendation for the permanent structure of governance for Devens by the year 2015." Otherwise, Chapter 498 of the Acts of 1993 state that the stakeholders will collectively work on a disposition plan for the 4,400 acre Devens Regional Enterprise Zone on or before July 1, 2033.
The law reads that, at that time in 2033, the Devens Enterprise Commission, the boards of selectmen of the three towns, and Mass Development "shall submit the study and a joint report to the governor, the secretary and to the clerk of the House and the clerk of the Senate recommending a permanent government structure for the ongoing operation and administration of Devens."
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. 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 and 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 DREZ residents.
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 chairman to run the meetings."
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," responded Kinch.
Kinch's first meeting as JBOS chairman was on Dec. 15, 2011. His one-year term expires with the December JBOS meeting.
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.