Selectmen Chairman Arthur 'Skip' Harrington recommended the board replace a member of the Town Administrator Search Committee for what he said was going behind the board's back.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen last week replaced a member of the Town Administrator Search Committee before it even started.
The board voted to replace Jeffrey Lefebvre with Stephen Melito, the runner up, after Lefebvre supposedly did an end run around the committee to check the legality of a meeting posting.
"It's a difficult thing to do frankly, but I thought it was the right thing for the town and the right thing for the search committee, who is a group of very talented individuals willing to spend their time and do this," Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington said.
For his part, Lefebvre said on Friday he was nervous because he had read Hinsdale recently got in trouble for not posting a search committee meeting.
"They [the selectmen] said I never go to the proper people to get information, and that is just not true," Lefebvre said. "I have gone to the state for information, and I will continue doing it if I need to, but I have met with everyone in town."
At issue was the search committee's first meeting, originally set for Tuesday, July 8. Harrington had posted the meeting on July 3, and there was a question of whether it met the required 48-hour notice, which did not include July 4 and the weekend.
Harrington believed the law could have been violated but said it was a non-issue because the committee could not meet on July 8 anyway.
Instead of going to the board, Lefebvre went to town counsel and reported the Selectmen, said Harrington. Board members agreed actions such as this could negatively impact the search Committee.
"Jeff does a lot of good, and I have seen him hand out checks at the Maple Grove Civic Club … but I had reservations when he was appointed to the board," Selectman Jeffrey Snoonian said. "I think his talents lie elsewhere, not necessarily in this process, but I think this committee is too important to have a wild card like that in there."
Selectman John Duval said Lefebvre is notorious for creating issues by not directly reporting to the selectmen or the town administrator. He said Lefebvre goes to town counsel or Boston before he asks directly.
"Jeff does a lot of good things for our community... and I respect him for that, but the issue we are dealing with tonight is a pattern and it continues to happen," Duval said.
Lefebvre said he wished the entire board was informed of Harrington's decision to remove him before the meeting — and that he had been notified so he could speak at the meeting.
"Apparently three of them knew what was going on and how could the others not know?" he said. "Furthermore, if they had any questions they should have called me; I call them, I go and see them, and if they have any questions they should talk to me."
Lefebvre said he first approached Selectman Joseph Nowak and asked if the law was being broken and Nowak suggested he talk to the town clerk or town counsel since the town administrator was on vacation.
"It's not that I am just going out there and going shopping; I turn around and I get my facts because I want to do my homework and don't want to shoot from the hip,” he said.
Selectman Joseph Nowak argued that Jeffrey Lefebvre should stay on the search committee, and should be given a chance to speak in his defense.
Lefebvre said he did not know yet what he could do, but he is going to re-watch the meetings and research to see if the selectmen's decision was valid.
Nowak and Selectman Richard Blanchard had concerns about the committee alteration.
Blanchard thought Harrington should have informed the board before bringing the changes up at the meeting. Nowak said Lefebvre acted wrongly, but would have felt more comfortable hearing from him.
"I kind of feel he should have the opportunity to serve on the board, and if there are any more shenanigans he is off the board," Nowak said. "He got voted in, and we all know Jeff's temperament, but I know the guy has a lot invested into this town."
Harrington said he made the decision right before the meeting and did not inform anyone because he felt it violated Open Meeting Law. He agreed it would have been optimal for Lefebvre to speak but delaying the decision would delay the committee.
The board never officially approved the committee so was able to make changes. The board agreed 3-2 to modify the committee makeup; the new committee was approved 4-1.
Lefebvre said even if he is not on the board he thinks his replacement, Melito, is the right person for the job.
"I know the guy, and he's an outstanding person," Lefebvre said. "If I was sitting on that board, that's the man I would have picked."