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Residents demand town manager back, board members threatened with recall
POLAND — Residents packed a November 7 selectboard meeting, demanding the reinstatement of former Town Manager Rosemary Kulow and threatening three board members with a recall.
Kulow was abruptly terminated at an October 16 board meeting.
Chairwoman Wendy Sanborn, Vice Chair Larry Moreau and Selectman Jim Fernald voted for termination while Selectmen Steve Robinson and Lester Stevens opposed it.
At the November meeting the board voted on a motion by Moreau to enter a five-month town manager contract with Rosemary Roy, the current interim town manager.
Moreau, Sanborn and Fernald voted to hire Roy and Stevens and Robinson voted against.
For nearly an hour, the board received a deluge of criticism from residents upset with Kulow's dismissal, Roy's hiring, the town office's atmosphere and the board's attitude.
"I'm quite disgusted with the board and it's firing of the town manager," David Corcoran told selectmen.
"The only excuse that you've given the townspeople is that 'it was a bad fit,'" Corcoran continued. "Well that doesn't cut it for those of us who knew her personally."
Corcoran described the atmosphere in the town office as "toxic" and suggested that Roy was an inappropriate choice for a town manager.
He urged the three board members to reconsider their vote to terminate Kulow. The termination procedure had not followed rules laid out in the town charter, he said.
Sanborn requested a motion to revisit the termination, but neither Fernald nor Moreau took it up.
Arthur Berry, identifying himself as a member of the "recall committee," said Sanborn, Moreau and Fernald faced a recall campaign if they did not reinstate Kulow or resign.
Sandy McAuly told the three board members that the "back room politicking" in town government was giving Poland a bad name.
She also requested Kulow's reinstatement and questioned installing Roy as town manager.
"She has neither the training or the expertise or the temperament to be able to do this job that the position requires," McAuly said.
Other residents said the atmosphere of town office and the demeanor of the board were serious problems.
"Your method of leadership seems to be threats and intimidation," Stan Tetenman told the board.
He noted the vote to terminate Kulow was split, suggesting there was no serious reason for Kulow to leave.
Michelle Arsenault said that on many occasions, the acting town manager had acted inappropriately and even abusively to residents and town office staff.
She said several formal complaints had been filed because of the behavior and wondered why the board had not taken any disciplinary action.
Board Chair Sanborn rejected Arsenault's accusations outright, describing her statements as hearsay and, as a personnel matter, could not be discussed at the meeting.
"It's inappropriate to even entertain in this venue," Sanborn declared.
Arsenault further questioned why the board decided to hire Roy as town manager without advertising for the position.
"Judgement call," Sanborn responded.
Sandy Knowles suggested the dismissive attitude the board seemed to take towards the accusations was becoming a serious issue.
She said the selectmen should be taking citizen's concerns more seriously.
"You're at a place where you could turn all of this around by being a little more open and a little less denigrating to the people who have ... what they consider to be very valid concerns," Knowles said.
The board would keep a list of the complaints and review them further, Moreau responded.
Sanborn said the board could review the video recording of the meeting later and discuss the concerns.
"None of this is falling on deaf ears," she said.
Objecting to Sanborn's declaration that complaints against the acting town manager were "hearsay," town employee Sue Therriault read a lengthy statement detailing the multiple written complaints she had filed with the town over a period of several years.
Therriault recounted harassment and abuse meted out to town employees by an unnamed superior in the town office.
Therriault read her statement despite opposition from Sanborn, who said the testimony was inappropriate for a public meeting.
After being told the board would not reconsider Kulow's termination, Berry said he and others would pursue a recall vote.
"You can plan on a recall and it is going to be messy," said Berry.