Hills Calls Out Fellow Selectman’s Accusations

Selectman Norm Hills fired back at fellow Selectman Steve Gonsalves on February 20 and called Gonsalves out for inciting a shouting match during the February 6 Marion Board of Selectmen meeting when Gonsalves accused Town Administrator Paul Dawson and the two other selectmen of inappropriately excluding him from the Department of Public Works interim supervisor discussion.

On February 6, Gonsalves explained how he received a “favorable response” from the State Ethics Commission pertaining to Dawson’s seemingly wrong determination that Gonsalves had a conflict of interest relative to DPW interim superintendent talks because Gonsalves’ son is employed by the DPW.

On February 20, in Gonsalves’ absence, Hills said Gonsalves was wrong in his interpretation of the State Ethics written response.

Gonsalves stated that State Ethics determined that unless Gonsalves was involved with the hiring of his son’s direct supervisor, Gonsalves could participate in the interim superintendent position. Because there is a supervisor standing between Gonsalves’ son and the superintendent, Gonsalves interpreted that as a green light to participate in the hiring process.

The email from State Ethics dated January 25, which The Wanderer obtained, does state, “…[The] DPW Superintendent will not be your son’s direct supervisor. Under these conditions, [Section] 19 would not be an issue for you…” However, in the same sentence, the letter further clarifies, “…unless the DPW Superintendent, upon starting the job, imminently would be involved in efforts or decisions affecting your son’s wages, hours or working conditions.” The letter cites examples, such as collective bargaining or a decision personnel matters such as a promotion, that would affect Gonsalves’ son’s employment status.

“This is the DPW Union contract,” said Hills. “It specifically identifies the DPW superintendent as the single person that makes decisions regarding wages, hours, or working conditions for all DPW employees.”

Hills said it was town counsel that determined Gonsalves had a conflict of interest, not Dawson, and it was Gonsalves who refused to accept town counsel’s opinion. After seeking advice from State Ethics, Hills said Gonsalves was asked to provide Dawson with a copy of the email. “That did not happen,” said Hills.

“Instead,” Hills said, “he chose to use our previous meeting as a bully pulpit to decry his perceived mistreatment and insult. The only person insulted has been Mr. Dawson.”

Hills said there was no excuse for Gonsalves’ behavior during the last meeting, saying that all along Gonsalves could have actively engaged Dawson or town counsel for clarification.

“No matter what he said or thinks,” Hills said, “Mr. Gonsalves does, in fact, have a conflict of interest that prevents him from participating in the DPW superintendent selection process.”

After the contentious discussion ceased on February 6, Gonsalves ultimately excused himself from the meeting out of spite until the DPW superintendent appointment of former selectman Jonathan Henry was over.

In other matters, the board approved Building Commissioner Scott Shippey’s request to increase Building Department fees, which have not changed since 2011.

“We’re still a little bit behind other towns adjacent to us,” said Shippey.

After reviewing the fees of similar towns including Rochester, Mattapoisett, and Wareham, Shippey proposed increases for permits and inspections averaging between $5 and $25, depending on the service.

“Electrical permits will go from $40 to $45 for residential and from $80 to $100 for commercial. Building permits will increase from $45 to $50, and foundation inspections will increase another five cents per square foot,” said Shippey.

Demolition permits will increase by $25 in each category; for example, a structure under 1,000 square feet will go up from $75 to $100, and structures over 1,000 square feet will go up from $125 to $150.

“It just went across the board like that,” Shippey said.

Certificates of Inspection, Shippey added, will also increase from $50 to $75, “Because it seems I’m doing a lot more of those lately.”

“Again, they’re very minor compared to other towns,” said Shippey.

In other matters, Town Administrator Paul Dawson, concerned about a higher than expected turnout for the board’s March 1 public hearing pertaining to the Town House renovation project, requested to change the venue from the Marion Music Hall to the Sippican School multipurpose room. The meeting will feature the Town House Building Committee and its subsequent subcommittee tasked with exploring a town hall option at the Senior/Community center on Mill Road, and the two options will be presented to the public that night.

That meeting will take place on Thursday, March 1, at 6:30 pm at Sippican School.

Also during the meeting, the board appointed Suzanne Maguire to the Marion Cultural Commission.

Extra benches from the Recreation Department, pending Conservation Commission approval of location of the benches, may be placed at Sprague’s Cove after a request from resident Susannah Davis. The matter was tabled until proposed locations of benches are submitted to the selectmen.

The board signed the employment contract for newly hired Council on Aging Director Karen Gregory.

Dawson announced that Marion resident Bill Claflin passed away and left to the Town various non farm-related tools that he owned. Dawson said he and Facilities Director Shaun Cormier met with the representative of Claflin’s estate, and Cormier subsequently took possession of a number of tools. “Some of them are just wrenches and things like that,” Dawson said, “but others are pretty intricate machinery that the DPW will make great use of.”

Dawson said Claflin was always supportive of the town, “And this is just one final act of kindness.”

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Selectmen is scheduled for March 6 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry


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