AYER — Board of Selectmen member Frank Maxant and town administrator Shaun Suhoski traded charges of impropriety at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
The exchange ended with the board voting 3-0 to condemn Maxant’s activities, while no action was taken on the allegations raised against Suhoski.
The primary accusations centered on confidentiality. Maxant erred by sharing a document labeled confidential with a resident, said Suhoski.
Maxant said the town administrator was outside the law to label it as such.
Suhoski spoke first. He raised two primary issues with Maxant. The most onerous, he said, was Maxant sharing the confidential document after a board meeting on March 28. It involved a personnel matter, he said, and sharing it violated public records law, board policy and the privacy of the employee.
He termed it part of a ongoing pattern from Maxant and urged the board to reprimand him.
Though Suhoski did not provide names, this reporter saw Maxant discussing a letter marked confidential with resident David Bodurtha after the selectmen’s meeting the previous week. Suhoski did say it was hard to determine if the incident outlined in the document had been resolved.
On his own behalf, Maxant said there was nothing legally confidential within the letter and accused Suhoski of viewing the board as a special club that withholds information when it’s convenient.
”This letter, I believe, came nowhere close to approaching confidential under the law,” he said.
”This board, on behalf of this town, is entitled to make that decision, not just you by yourself,” he said.
The law trumps whatever confidentiality policies the board has, said Maxant, and the board interprets laws as saying it’s legal to keep virtually everything secret, when the opposite is the case. He also addressed the issue of privacy, saying the document had been aired publicly in the past, and it pertained to the person he showed it to.
”It had everything to do with the person involved, and everybody close to the situation knows it,” he said. “I have a responsibility to the law and to our constituents to do what’s right.”
The proper course of action would have been to ask the board to change the classification on the letter or policy, not to take action on his own, said Selectman Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan.
”It’s the issue of you deciding whether it is or isn’t confidential,” he said.
Suhoski brought another incident into the discussion as well.
He said Maxant used the selectmen’s office stamp to officially receive a document the previous Saturday, which violated policy stating articles can only be received by administrative assistant Janet Lewis. The document pertained to the arraignment of a local resident. It had nothing to do with the selectmen, which Suhoski termed troubling.
Maxant said he did so at the request of the resident as proof that the selectmen had received it.
Morrison said he went too far by doing that. She hadn’t read the letter as a result.
Again, Sullivan accused Maxant of acting unilaterally on behalf of the board.
However, Selectman Pauline Conley said she knew of two instances where other selectmen had signed on behalf of the board in recent months. She listed one occurrence where Selectman Paul Bresnahan signed a grant application on behalf of the board, then brought it to a meeting afterward for ratification. She asked if that were a violation as well.
Morrison said she didn’t think so.
The difference was that Bresnahan was signing for town business so an application could be submitted on time, said Suhoski. By receiving a private arraignment document, Suhoski said Maxant could have been giving a resident special treatment, abusing his power or similar issues.
Maxant said he would have done the same for any resident, and he didn’t see Suhoski’s point.
”You’re really stretching it to imply there was any type of special treatment here,” he said.
When the board moved to condemn Maxant, Conley said she would not vote as she hadn’t read the letter central to the issue.
”I don’t have the letter, so I don’t know what it says,” she said.