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Townsend selectman’s complaints spur $5,800 in legal bills

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TOWNSEND — The town is faced with an estimated $5,800 in legal services so far as a result of complaints made against town employees by a selectman.

An invoice for legal services from town counsel provided by Town Administrator Andy Sheehan showed $2,912 in charges incurred while working on “employee complaints” between March 11 and March 31.

Not included on that bill are four visits that town counsel has made to town since then. Sheehan said he based his estimate of charges on four to six hours per visit.

Town counsel bills at $160 per hour including time spent traveling between Boston and Townsend.

At the request of Selectman Carolyn Smart, who filed the complaints with town counsel, a discussion on the findings are on the agenda for May 26, Sheehan said. Town counsel will return for the meeting.

The selectmen met in several executive sessions with the employees and department heads concerned. The minutes will be released on May 26, said Sheehan and Selectman Colin McNabb.

The selectmen announced the findings on April 21. “The board finds that the facts alleged in the complaints were either inaccurate or involved issues or policies that were revised months before the complaints were submitted,” McNabb read that night.

“The board concludes that none of the allegations involved actions of the employees that were illegal, unethical or inappropriate,” he read.

Smart did not attend the meeting when the findings were read. “I wanted to be there,” she said during a phone call on May 12.

On May 5, prior to Town Meeting, she said she asked for a discussion of the findings to be added to the May 26 agenda. “There’s a lot of questions,” she said.

“I can’t imagine why town counsel is coming,” she said.

In addition to serving as a selectman, Smart is employed part time at the Water Department.

Despite the unforeseen spending, enough money remains in the legal budget to cover the bills. The town budgeted $38,500 for fiscal year 2015, Sheehan said. Prior to a bill for $6,474.89 dated April 27, the town had spent $17,585.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.