A regular meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was scheduled for Wednesday, March 12, 2003 at 7:30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the County Administration Building, notice of such meeting having been posted as required by law.
Commissioners Present: John Alley, Chairman
Leonard Jason, Jr.
Absent: Robert Sawyer
Also Present: Dianne Powers, Acting County Manager
Diane Abbot, Deputy County Manager
Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant
Noreen Flanders, County Treasurer
Stephen Berlucchi, County Engineer
TJ Hegarty, Rodent Control Officer
Ezra Blair, MV Times
Jonathan Burke, Vineyard Gazette
Chairman Alley called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
Commissioner Leland Moved that the Minutes of February 26, 2003
be Accepted as written. Commissioner Jason Seconded the Motion. The Minutes were Approved. Commissioner Strauss Abstained.
Ms. Powers reported that in December a proposal was received from Mr. Ron Mechur to appraise property for the Corrections Facility and Public Safety Building. The $6000 for the appraisal already being designated, Ms. Powers said that unless there was an objection, she would sign the contract and proceed. There was no objection.
Ms. Powers said that Diane Abbot was requesting reviews of Job Descriptions as part of the 3-year MMA review process.
A letter from Commissioner Jason dated March 3, 2003 was mentioned (attached) in which Commissioner Jason stated, in reference to a letter from Ms. Smolev’s attorney, that he and Commissioner Leland ‘find it troubling.’ Commissioner Jason said, ‘Public business, no matter how sensitive, should be conducted publicly.’
A letter from Mrs. Borer’s attorney, Stephen Perry, of Casner and Edwards, dated
March 10, 2003 was read into the record (attached.) Discussion followed about the letter. At this point Woody Williams asked that the letter from Commissioner Jason dated March 3, 2003 be read as well.
Commissioner Leland said it appeared that Commissioner Sawyer had attempted to negotiate a settlement with Mrs. Borer. He questioned if he had done it on behalf of the Commissioners. Each Commissioner present stated that he had not been consulted. Commissioner Wey said he didn’t think it appropriate to discuss it while Commissioner Sawyer was absent. Chairman Alley said it was unclear if Commissioner Sawyer had been acting on the Commission’s behalf. Commissioner Leland said it appeared from the letter that Commissioner Sawyer had made recent attempts to negotiate and he had a problem with that.
Commissioner Wey asked when this consulting was occurring. Ms. Powers stated that Mrs. Borer has been available to give guidance to herself, the Sheriff, the Treasurer, that she was there to give them background. Commissioner Wey asked again when this consulting had happened. He asked if it had gone on throughout this period since Mrs. Borer left? Ms. Powers said yes. Commissioner Wey stated he was not aware of that. Sheriff McCormack said he had consulted with Mrs. Borer about the appraisal process and he apologized for not asking permission if it was felt he should have. Ms. Powers reiterated that Mrs. Borer had been available when people needed to know where things stood. Woody Williams asked for copies of the letter for the public.
Commissioner Strauss asked if the interactions, the consultations, were just for transition, just answering questions. Ms. Powers said the consultations made it possible to accomplish tasks. When asked to estimate the number of hours involved, Ms. Powers said she couldn’t estimate the number. Commissioner Strauss said he wanted to know what was discussed and how involved it was. He said if it was worth $100/hour, then 40 hours would seem to equal the money asked to be returned. Ms. Powers said it wasn’t possible to add up the hours, the emails, every conversation. Commissioner Jason said that was just one of many issues.
Joanna Jernegan spoke about ‘normal’ transitions, people doing a good job, giving notice, leaving, assisting in transition for a fee. She said she believed this wasn’t the case with Carol Borer and that was why she felt like laughing. She called the letter ludicrous and questioned how Mrs. Borer could get credit for consulting when she had created the situation. Ms. Powers disagreed. Commissioner Wey said backup information was needed. Commissioner Jason mentioned that there were other outstanding issues and asked if the Commissioners were saying Ms. Powers should no longer talk to Mrs. Borer. Commissioner Wey asked again for an estimate of the number of hours and Ms. Powers said she had no idea. Commissioner Strauss asked if Ms. Powers at present saw issues that needed to be discussed with Mrs. Borer and Ms. Powers said, ‘not today.’ Commissioner Jason said there was the $108,000 outstanding that Mrs. Borer had been working on.
Treasurer Flanders held up a list of 23 outstanding things that she wrote down when Mrs. Borer left and they got together, employee’s evaluation, DEM grant, Union things, etc. Sheriff McCormack said Mrs. Borer was the head for 5 years. Department Heads had constant daily contact and he needed to continue that relationship. He said he had spent many hours consulting with Mrs. Borer and that relationship couldn’t be severed. He mentioned he had spoken with Mrs. Borer at least ten hours in six weeks.
Commissioner Strauss said in his experience there was a need for updating and transitioning when someone left, but there would be a departure process or consultation agreement. He said the Commissioners did neither and now an attorney was saying the consulting was done and needed to be considered.
Ms. Powers said she would have kept tract had she known this was an option. Commissioner Leland said there was an original negotiated rate for a transition period and the Commissioners were providing a transition plan until the ‘fiasco,’ and then things had gone downhill.
Woody Williams gave a recommendation as a citizen questioning Commissioner Sawyer’s negotiations on such a serious matter. He asked that the Commissioners not vote tonight to release Carol Borer before discussing an investigation. Ms. Powers said that was not on this agenda. Mr. Williams said then the public did not want a settlement. He said Mrs. Borer owed at least $5000.
Chairman Alley asked about the Computer Lab bill that the Commissioners had voted be sent to Mr. Borer. Ms. Powers said there had been no response yet. Ms. Abbot said Sergeant Johnson had stopped in to say that the Computer Lab wanted to be paid. Commissioner Wey asked if the letter had been sent register mail. Ms. Abbot said it had not.
Commissioner Jason asked what to tell Department Heads, to contact Mrs. Borer or not? Discussion followed.
Commissioner Strauss Moved that the Commissioners authorize
staff to talk with Carol Borer about transition information as necessary and
keep track of time. Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion.
Cassie Roessel said, not as an employment lawyer, but as a citizen, she suggested consulting with an attorney and possibly sending a letter saying that while people may make contact, the Commissioners hadn’t decided yet. She said she thought this letter was putting the Commissioners on notice and advice might not be freely given, but that they might get a bill. Miev Good as if still talking was tantamount to accepting Mrs. Borer’s offer. He suggested asking an attorney. Commissioner Jason said the fact was they need what Mrs. Borer knows. He suggested calling it square after two months with the new County Manager. Mr. Voeth said there needed to be an agreement for the period from now on.
Commissioner Strauss Amended the Motion to say action would be based on
County Commissioners’ discussion with an attorney. Commissioner Wey
Seconded the Amendment.
Stephen Berlucchi suggested accepting the proposal,(with 20 hours for the Treasurer and 10 hours for the Sheriff and Ms. Powers’ numbers already spent in consultation,) because it wouldn’t be cost effective to hire an attorney. Mr. Williams disagreed. He said after the Investigation by Commissioners Strauss and Smith, it wasn’t clear how much money Mrs. Borer owed and he added, ‘we can’t just let her slide.’ Commissioner Jason thought the proposal was ‘a bargain.’
Commissioner Jason suggested the Chair discuss this with the attorney.
Commissioner Wey Seconded the Amendment. The vote to pass the Motion was
Joanne Jernegan asked if this three-month consultation was done with the knowledge of the County Commissioners. Chairman Alley said he wasn’t aware of it. Commissioner Jason said it wasn’t a sin or secret. Ms. Jernegan said she didn’t mean to imply it was sinister, but as County officials she thought Commissioners should know or be asked before communications when it was such a controversial subject.
Sheriff McCormack said as an elected official he felt it essential to continuing County business to consult with the former County Manager and he apologized if he didn’t run it by the Commissioners. Chairman Alley said that would have been counterproductive. Ms. Powers said, irresponsible. Sheriff McCormack questioned how to proceed now? Discussion followed about phoning the attorney. Commissioner Strauss said staff and officials need to tell Carol Borer when they speak to her that they are not talking on the basis of this letter. Sheriff said that was not his position. Mr. Williams asked if that meant we’d have two County Managers as well as two assistants, with Mrs. Borer in the picture. Ms. Powers said she was not in the picture.
Diane Abbot reported that she sent 23 packets out for the County Manager Search Committee, but the packets, mailed Priority on 2/27 had taken too long to get to people and with only 6 responses so far the due date for responses to questions may have to be extended.
Cassie Roessel began her review of the SSA RFP process, by stating that she did not yet have the SSA Management’s recommendation. She hoped to have some more information this Friday, but the official presentation of the recommendation would be on March 20. The two serious proposals are from Boston Harbor Cruises and New England Fast Ferry. Ms. Roessel stressed the need for environmentally friendly proposals and reviewed the schedule of events including public input that would lead to a vote on the proposals. Ms. Roessel said her concern was what this all would cost the Vineyard. She said the private lines would pay the SSA license fees and hopefully the SSA would collect parking revenues. Commissioner Jason asked if Tisbury had changed its mind on fast ferry service into its harbor. Ms. Roessel said asked if she’d changed her mind, she’d say there are fast ferries and there are fast ferries, and they’re not all the same. She said nobody in Tisbury was happy with past fast ferries, but Commissioner Leland disagreed. He said businessmen were. Ms. Roessel said two problems were wake characteristics and appropriate size for docking safely. Commissioner Jason stressed the need for answers before the RFP process. Ms. Roessel said Tisbury indicated how it felt by passing the harbor DCPC. Commissioner Jason asked how big the ships were and Ms. Roessel said she wasn’t sure. The New England Fast Ferry was either 100 or 149 passengers and they’d run two small boats and the Boston Harbor Cruises was bigger, 149 and 350, so probably they’d run the 350 passenger one seasonally. Todd Rebello questioned why Tisbury wanted more service in season when five corners was so busy. He wondered where staging would be. Ms. Roessel said she could ask that of Oak Bluffs too. She added that the Schamonchi would continue runs to Oak Bluffs. Commissioner Jason voiced surprise that the Schamonchi would still be running after this went to bid. Ms. Roessel reiterated that she hadn’t seen Management’s recommendation yet, but that there were two markets, $10 tickets and $20 tickets and the two lines would meet the need to accommodate the two.
Commissioner Leland also questioned running both boats. Ms. Roessel said again that the argument was premature since she hadn’t seen the recommendation yet. Todd Rebello stated that now he was even more concerned. He said we would be setting ourselves up for failure by running both and there needed to be more time to study the situation. Discussion continued. When asked by Commissioner Jason how long the license would be for, Ms. Roessel responded 12 years. Commissioner Jason pressed for more information. Todd Rebello said he was surprised and disappointed that the Port Council members were not present.
Commissioner Jason asked about the public money that the SSA paid for Galen Robbins’ defense. Ms. Roessel said the amount was over $100,000 with possibly another $40,000.
Ms. Roessel said she would set a date for a public meeting. She left at 9:29PM.
Ms. Powers read the Resolution that according to the Charter was necessary to begin an investigation into Ms. Smolev’s complaints. Ms. Powers had proposals from: Thomas Saltonstall, JAMS, Bowditch & Dewey, and John Wofford. Ms. Powers knew Mr. Tidman. Mrs. Cini recommended Mr. Wofford. Chairman Alley recommended Mr. Saltonstall and Attorney Gilman recommended Judge Xifaras. It was noted that Mr. Wofford charged $250/hour and Mr. Saltonstall would work pro bono.
Commissioner Wey Moved to accept the generous offer of Tom Saltonstall.
Commissioner Jason Seconded the Motion.
Commissioner Jason said he’d known ‘Tommy’ since he was a kid. Chairman Alley added he lives here. Ms. Powers said he would do a good job.
Commissioner Wey Moved to accept the generous offer of Tom Saltonstall.
The Vote to accept the offer was Unanimous.
Ms. Powers read the Resolution as it would read should the Commissioners adopt it.
Commissioner Jason Moved to adopt the Resolution as read.
Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion. The Vote was Unanimous.
Treasurer Flanders reported on the meeting of the Mass County Commissioners that she attended in Norfolk County. There will be another meeting in Barnstable in three months.
Todd Rebello said there had been a request from the High School for the All Island Selectmen to meet March 26. The Commissioners agreed to change the date of their next meeting.
Mr. Williams asked Ms. Powers how things were working in the office between Ms. Smolev and Ms. Abbot, how smoothly. And how much longer would it be before Ms. Smolev returned to her full duties. Ms. Powers said she didn’t understand. She said Ms. Abbot was doing County Manager’s job and that he should ask Ms. Smolev. He asked Ms. Abbot about the daily situation. Ms. Powers thought the environment was good but she said she couldn’t answer.
Commissioner Leland Moved that the Meeting adjourn. Commissioner Wey
Seconded it. The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Complete text of meeting is available on tape at the County Commissioner’s office.
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO, JR.
CLERK OF THE COURTS