Townsend treasurer/collector says she will not work under additional probation

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By Anne O’Connor

aoconnor@nashobavalleyvoice.com

TOWNSEND — For the second time this year, Townsend may find itself searching for a new treasurer/collector.

“I will not work under probation,” Deb Kristoff said during a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday. The two selectmen voted to extend Kristoff’s probationary status for another three months.

How she does her job is governed by Massachusetts General Laws, Kristoff said. She is bonded and certified.

Kristoff was hired on April 21, with six months’ probation, after the previous employee left the position.

Extending probation is standard administrative procedure according to town counsel, said Chairman Gordy Clark. “It’s not meant to be offensive to you.”

The additional time will give Kristoff time to clean up a material weakness that was identified in the past by an audit, Selectman Carolyn Smart said. Town officials are required to sign off on financials monthly and have not been able to do so in some time.

“I believe in you,” Smart said, but the situation is back to where it was three years ago.

Kristoff said that she has been catching up since she arrived. The year-end statements are about three weeks later than usual

“There’s not enough hours in the day,” Kristoff said.

“I think if anyone else had come in, you would have been up the creek without a paddle, she said. “The staff did not know the software.”

Employees have made complaints about their compensation, Smart said.

Only one complaint that she has received remains outstanding, Kristoff said. That problem predates her employment.

In August, the selectmen and Kristoff discussed a problem with funds from employees’ pay being deducted from their checks but not deposited into a deferred-compensation account. At the time, Kristoff said not all of the accounts were set up when she arrived in April.

Tuesday’s discussion was not a discharge hearing, nor was it meant to embarrass Kristoff, Clark said. He thought it would be held in executive session.

The agenda listed an executive session to discuss complaints or charges against public officials or individuals. Kristoff asked for an open session. Cable television cameras were not present.

Clark asked her to reflect on her decision to resign.

“I’ll be in touch with Andy (Sheehan, the town administrator) in the morning, and I request that you be in touch with your legal counsel also,” Kristoff said.

Two other executive sessions on the agenda were canceled at the request of town counsel. Smart said that the counsel was ill.

The two selectmen also addressed two Open Meeting Law complaints filed with the Attorney General by former Selectman Sue Lisio.

On two occasions, the agenda failed to identify the person or entity with whom the board is negotiating a contract, the complaints alleged.

Smart acknowledged the omission. On Sept. 15, the executive session was held and on Oct. 13 the session was not held, she said. She asked that the town administrator include the information when he prepares the agenda in the future.

She asked Sheehan to prepare a written response.

The selectmen also approved three members for the Police Chief Screening Committee: Sheehan, Fire Chief Mark Boynton and Boxboro Police Chief Warren Ryder. The board set the compensation range for the chief’s position at $95,000 to $125,000.

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