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Conley accuses Suhoski of filing inaccurate time sheets

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AYER — Town administrator Shaun Suhoski coolly answered a series of questions on his use of vacation time, but became heated when Selectman Pauline Conley said he filed inaccurate time sheets.

“That’s a bunch of crap,” he said, slapping a pile of folders on the table.

Suhoski’s outburst came after the Board of Selectmen spent more than an hour on May 29 discussing his time sheets and vacation time.

Afterward, he termed the discussion “worthwhile,” but didn’t extend that to Conley’s allegations.

“I take, as you may have noted, great exception to any inference that what’s on those sheets is inaccurate,” he said. “My signature is my word. I have proof that I shouldn’t have to provide. I find this continuing pattern of micromanagement frustrating.”

Conley didn’t back down afterward either.

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard him be insubordinate,” she said. “Mr. Suhoski can make whatever comments he wants. I take nothing personal and hold no personal grudge.”

Central to the issue is an unsigned time sheet from Suhoski.

Conley normally signs them as board chairman, but she questioned Suhoski’s use of 10- and four-hour blocks of vacation time to take days off. Since Suhoski’s contract stipulates he work during Town Hall business hours, she said a day off should equal eight hours.

Suhoski said, while he’s a salaried employee, the time sheets are calculated on a 40-hour-per-week basis. Employees are allowed to take vacation time by the hour, and he used the four- and 10-hour blocks to round out pay periods where he went over eight hours per day earlier in the week.

“I don’t accept that answer,” said Conley.

Selectmen Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan and Carolyn McCreary supported Suhoski. They said he can’t be expected to work 40 hours at Town Hall, then attend the evening meetings his position requires.

Besides, the time sheet is only to calculate benefits, said Sullivan.

In any event, it didn’t require a signature for Suhoski to get paid.

Selectmen Frank Maxant and Gary Luca said Suhoski needs to be in the office during regular business hours, and it was suggested the contract be revisited.

At one point, Selectman Frank Maxant said the dispute is over what constitutes a work week, either 40 hours or five 8-hour days.

The issue is Suhoski’s bank of vacation time, said Conley, which could leverage a full day off with only four hours, provided 36 had been worked earlier in the week.

The time sheets indicate that Suhoski gave taxpayers their money’s worth, said McCreary, noting an instance where 10 hours were taken to get one day off.

After reading town policies and Suhoski’s contract, Maxant agreed with McCreary.

“Shaun could work 30 hours per week and not put in any vacation time, and there’s nothing to prevent that in the town rules,” he said. “He’s being very fair to the taxpayers.”

The issues raised by Conley should be cleared up, said Luca. Suhoski is devoting sufficient hours to the position, he said.

“I understand where you’re coming from,” he said to Conley, “but I think we’re getting our money’s worth, too.”

Talk then moved to an incident at the selectmen’s office earlier in the day. Again, the issue was leave time. Suhoski said “allegations” from Conley about inaccurate time sheets had him seeking documents for verification afterward.

When Suhoski cited a fax transmission as proof one time sheet entry was accurate, Conley said she’d stopped by the office shortly before the referenced time, and Suhoski was nowhere to be found.

That led to the outburst from Suhoski.

“You’re not showing any leadership for the town,” he said. “You’re micromanaging. I’m hearing it from the other department heads, too.”

McCreary attempted to resolve the vacation time issue with a motion that would allow Suhoski leeway to reach 40 hours each week, but possible unintended effects had Maxant and Luca leery.

Sullivan then took a different approach.

“To get the issue at hand, as opposed to making policy, we’re asking if this time sheet is acceptable to be signed by the chairman of the board,” he said.

Conley called a vote on that question, which was initially 4-0, with her abstaining. That had Suhoski crying foul.

“If you know it’s false, shouldn’t you vote no?” he asked Conley. “Should the board accept your recusal?”

Conley then changed her position and voted affirmative.

“I may not agree with it, but I can vote in collaboration with the board,” she said.

Conley said she will take the matter up with the Personnel Board.

Sullivan said afterward that he wasn’t impressed with Conley’s part in the exchange.

“I just think it was poor management style and something the board as a whole should consider,” he said.