AYER — Citing a lack of pertinent information beforehand, Selectman Frank Maxant walked out of a complaint hearing at the Board of Selectmen’s (BOS) meeting Tuesday, causing the proceedings to be rescheduled.
Maxant was the focus of unprofessional behavior complaints from Ayer Police Chief Richard Rizzo, who had outlined his problems with Maxant’s behavior in memos to board Chairman Faye Morrison twice since October.
The topic was raised previously during which Morrison asked Maxant if he wanted the meeting held in open or closed session.
While the issue was not resolved at that meeting, nor was it discussed at this meeting. The board went into open session without asking Maxant which he preferred, as is his right to decide as the subject of a complaint.
At the start of the open session, Maxant had neither been clued-in to the details of the complaints against him nor did he see the memos, and he refused to participate until he had a chance to review the facts.
“I’ve seen none of this and I will not participate until I’ve seen these documents and have had 10 days to review them,” he said.
Regardless, Morrison asked Rizzo to distribute the pertinent documents and indicated for him to begin speaking. Maxant walked out.
“You can mail it to me,” said Maxant.
The issues between Maxant and Rizzo have been ongoing since October, when Maxant wrote a letter to the presiding judge at Ayer District Court Peter Kilmartin inquiring about the performance of the Ayer police.
While Maxant was notified on Nov. 29 that there would be a complaint hearing against him, he was told by Morrison that details of the complaint would be forthcoming in a certified letter, which he discovered was not the case when he received it Friday.
Having picked up his packet of selectmen’s material that same day, Maxant learned of the memos Morrison had received from Rizzo weeks beforehand that outlined the complaints. The memos were referenced in a letter from the chief to the board, which left Maxant determined to get more information before being asked to answer the complaints.
Maxant was not the only one who wanted to see the memos. Before the hearing commenced, Selectman Pauline Conley presented a printed e-mail dated Nov. 30 that requested all documents related to the issues between Maxant and Rizzo from Morrison.
While the letterhead indicated that it was sent to all the selectmen, town counsel and the selectmen’s office on Nov. 30, Morrison said she hadn’t seen it until earlier that day.
“I just read your request letter today,” she said. “Nothing was being kept from anybody.”
The possibility of Maxant walking out on Tuesday had been alluded to moments before it happened by Selectman Paul Bresnahan, who suggested the board defer the matter until Maxant had read the materials.
“If the chief is going to enter his explanation and Frank is going to leave, it won’t be a good use of our time,” he said.
Bresnahan added that, if Maxant had been given the materials, he would not be in the wrong to exit
“I think he has a right to get up and leave,” he said.
After Maxant left, members of the board read the documents presented by Rizzo, and board Vice Chairman Connie Sullivan acknowledged there was additional commentary in the memos and suggested they defer the matter.
“In the interest of fairness, I suggest we wait 10 days and reschedule it,” he said. “He has a right to see it.”
Morrison agreed, saying the full disclosure of documents provided at the meeting made her see things differently, though she did not elaborate on what that meant. She made a request that Rizzo provide all related documents for the board’s next meeting, but he said they are already in the board’s hands.
Leaving the hearing, Rizzo said only that he hoped Maxant would now be able to read the materials so the matter could be taken up next time and it could be put behind them.