Mending Fences – Turco and McKenna clear the air

Thursday, April 15, 2010
By Transcript Staff

It’s time to move on to other matters after Town Council President Jeffrey Turco and Town Manager James McKenna apparently settled their prior disagreement during an executive session Monday night at Town Hall.

The Council had postponed the original executive session from last week (after Mr. McKenna had stated that he wanted the discussion to be held in open session) and Mr. Turco had scheduled a “special meeting” for Monday night. Several residents came to the Joe Harvey Room to witness it, but the special meeting became an executive session after the Council voted by an 8-1 margin to go into executive session in another room at Town Hall after Mr. McKenna agreed to do so.

Only the truest of parliamentarians or Robert’s Rules experts could ascertain if the Council followed the letter of the law for executive sessions, but it seemed like Mr. Turco had thoroughly reviewed the proper course of action for holding an executive session.

However, we would note two things: First, a policy disagreement is not a basis for an executive session. The Open Meeting Law restricts executive sessions to narrow exceptions when it comes to meetings with town employees. Those three exceptions are to discuss the employee’s reputation or character; to discuss disciplinary action, charges or complaints against the employee; or to investigate charges of criminal misconduct. Thus, given that the Council decided to go into executive session with Mr. McKenna, it must be inferred that it was for one of those reasons.

Second, the Open Meeting Law requires that minutes be kept of every executive session and that eventually those minutes must become available to the public. At some point, the public will find out what went on behind closed doors and why.

The decision to go into executive session obviously didn’t sit well with former Selectman and Planning Board Chairman Richard Dimes or former Town Moderator and town historian David Hubbard who were in the hall for the meeting. They both publicly expressed their displeasure, but cooler heads did prevail (and we must credit Police Chief Terence Delehanty for immediately stepping in to quell any further vehemence).

But we’ve been told that Mr. Turco and Mr. Dimes did talk after the executive session and they both understood each other’s positions and they’re ready to work together for the advancement of the town.

The bottom line is that we’re pleased that the council president and town manager have moved on and are ready to tackle some of the important issues that the town faces in the coming fiscal year.

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