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SHIRLEY — Selectmen Monday night expressed chagrin and “disappointment” over the content of a July 7 letter from Board of Assessors Chairwoman Paulette Arakelian.

In the letter, she voiced her “dissatisfaction” in the process by which a vacancy on the board was filled as well as with the chosen candidate, Planning Board Chairman Jonathan Greeno.

The letter came up in the context of Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s report.

Basically, the letter states that the recent appointment — made by a joint vote of both boards, as required by state law — was “fixed,” Garvin told the board.

Garvin said she viewed the letter as an “attack” on her office. It showed the writer lacked knowledge of Mass. General laws, she said, which set the process that was followed.

The vacancy opened up when longtime Assessor Ron Marchetti stepped down as of the May town election, leaving a one-year, unexpired term. At the same time, Dorothy Wilbur, who ran unopposed, filled a second opening for a full, three-year term.

Before Greeno’s appointment a couple of weeks ago, the Board of Assessors consisted of two members, Wilbur and Arakelian.

Selectman Robert Prescott said the vacancy was filled by the book, standard practice.

When the two assessors previously presented their candidate of choice — Betsy Mirkovic — Garvin said the joint vote would have to wait because another application had come in earlier in the day and that candidate must be considered, too.

The candidate was Greeno. Others the assessors had already ruled out were Pamela Culkins and Hans Onsager.

But the selectmen favored asking all the candidates to be reconsidered and to attend the next meeting, when the joint vote could be taken. In the meantime, both boards would review all of the resumés.

The assessors agreed.

When the time came, the selectmen’s vote in the first round was unanimous and they recently confirmed that they all voted for Greeno.

The assessors, however, were split, Selectman David Swain said.

Contacted after Monday night’s meeting, Wilbur confirmed that.

In a secret ballot, first time around, she and Arakelian voted differently than they had originally, she acknowledged, when they both backed Mirkovic. But with a show of hands vote, second time around, the three selectmen and two assessors all voted for Greeno, she said.

According to Wilbur, the general belief she and the chairman shared, going in, was that Garvin and the board would be leery of appointing Mirkovic, who had spoken up against giving the administrator the cost-of-living increase promised in her contract but subject to Town Meeting appropriation. The raise was voted down.

Clearly, Arakelian held out for her first choice, however.

“The Board of Assessors chose a candidate,” she said in her letter. “At this point, this (the process) should have been closed.”

But Prescott said that’s not the way it works.

“It’s not any one board’s responsibility to make the appointment,” he said. The selectmen voted for “the most experienced candidate,” he said.

But Arakelian’s letter states the opposite is true, citing an “uneven vote” and the perception of “people” that the process was flawed. A “less qualified candidate” favored by the board was appointed, she said.

She also objected to bringing in all the candidates “to portray an interview process” when it was a “done deal” already. “We disrespected their time,” she said.

The appointment process as it played out was “unfortunate and unhealthy” for the town, she said.

“We follow the law,” Prescott said. “That’s how the process works.”

The other two selectmen concurred.

“We voted for the most qualified candidate,” David Swain said of Greeno, who has served over 10 years on the Planning Board, is the principal assessor in Groton and also works as an appraiser.

“I voted for him,” Selectman Kendra Dumont said. And secret ballot or not, she had no problem saying so.

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