Rodgers Library Trustees Called before Ethics Committee
February 19, 2016
By Len Lathrop
The Hudson Code of Ethics Committee met on Feb. 11 to hear a complaint. Now that is a lot of news for the ethics committee as they had not heard a complaint since Bill Cole was sitting as a selectman.
Before the specifics of this case, the ethics committee members are elected to serve in accordance with RSA 31:39A. The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made through the proper channels of the governmental structure; that public office not be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government.
While the committee calls for five members only four are currently listed on their website. They were all present on the 11th: Chairman Dianne Emaneulson; Secretary Diane Sirvydas; Vice-Chairman Bob Olson; and Jared Stevens.
This complaint happened in August and September of 2015, however, it was not questioned until at the budget public hearing in late January when Shawn Jasper brought it to the budget committee’s attention in a comment from the public input session. He pointed out that the Library Trustees had given raises to employees in a nonpublic meeting and had held an e-mail vote. Selectmen quickly picked up on this and had Town Administrator Steve Malizia draft a formal complaint to the ethics committee.
Without much fanfare, the ethics committee took testimony from Library Chair Robin Rodgers and Library Trustee Linda Kipnes. They explained that the August meeting in question involved Rodgers, Kipnes, Library Director Charles Matthews and Arlene Creedan via e-mail to see what was available in the budget for raises approved by the voters in the March election for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2015. Both explained that no votes were taken, and the vote was taken and recorded during their September meeting.
Ethics Committee Vice-Chair Olson asked for some explanation of the Library Trustee minutes of the meeting and suggested that they should adopt a different format for the minutes, possibly dividing things into old and new business as other town committees do.
Ethics Chair Emanuelson motioned to advise the Library Trustees that the e-mail vote should be void and a public meeting should be held to retake the vote. Also that future meetings need to comply with RSA 91-A:2, meetings Open to Public and RSA 91-a:2 III (c) ‘No meeting shall be conducted by electronic mail or any other form of communication that does not permit the public to hear, read or otherwise discern meeting discussion.
The motion was passed unanimously.