Rutland Town Select Board argument makes resolution unclear – Rutland Herald

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Mostly cloudy. High 52F. Winds light and variable..
Partly cloudy early followed by cloudy skies overnight. Low around 40F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: December 30, 2022 @ 4:41 am

Reporter
It’s unclear as to how an issue with an outgoing lister’s pay was resolved, following an argument between the Rutland Town Select Board chair and other board members.
After Select Board Chair Don Chioffi presented an award to retiring lister Howard Burgess, Selectwoman Mary Ashcroft moved to take up the matter of vacation time she believes Burgess is owed. This happened at the regular Dec. 20 on meeting. She had requested the matter be placed on the agenda, but noted it was removed.
Chioffi declared the motion to be out of order. Ashcroft asked why. Chioffi said it was under the advice of the town attorney. Ashcroft said she’s an attorney as well and began to make a motion. Chioffi talked over her, then Selectman Kurt Hathaway seconded Ashcroft’s motion.
“It’s been ruled out of order, and there’s a proper procedure when a motion is ruled out of order,” Chioffi said. “It’s ruled out of order because the reconsideration of that is not appropriate, according to our town attorney.”
The issue appeared to center around accrued paid time off as it pertains to hired employees versus elected officials. Hired people are on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year while elected officials begin and end their terms in March. According to Ashcroft, recent changes to the town’s personnel policy unfairly removed paid time off that Burgess, and possibly some others, had accrued.
Selectwoman Sharon Russell said the board should hear Ashcroft out.
“I feel the same way,” said Selectman Kurt Hathaway. “I believe any of the five board members should be able to put something on the agenda without the approval of the chair.”
Chioffi took issue with this, saying it’s been the board’s policy that the chair set the agenda. Hathaway said that Chioffi isn’t a mayor, that the chair is appointed by the rest of the board. Chioffi took issue with this, as well, saying Hathaway has “more to learn,” and that he won’t be going against the advice of town counsel.
Ashcroft said no one else on the board was aware its attorney had been consulted.
“That you took it upon yourself to go get some kind of an opinion and a letter directed to our town clerk from the attorney without consulting with any of us or telling us what was up,” said Ashcroft. “Our town clerk is now in the position of having to interpret something, and I believe it is a policy decision that the select board can make when in a case such as this the adoption of a personnel policy in August was made retroactive and effectively wiped out Howard Burgess’ accumulated vacation time.”
She said she’s spoken to Burgess and Town Clerk Kari Clark about this and said she believes Burgess has been treated unfairly.
“By making the personnel policy prospective, it preserves (Burgess’) accumulated vacation and sick days. That’s my motion.”
Russell seconded the motion. Chioffi declared it out of order. Ashcroft said she’d still like a vote. Hathaway and Russell both voted “aye,” and so did Ashcroft, then Selectman Joe Denardo who was participating remotely.
“The motion has been ruled out of order,” said Chioffi.
Denardo said he’s annoyed by this situation and feels other full-time elected officials have been treated differently from Burgess under the new policy.
Chioffi claimed that he took the matter off the agenda because he’d found a better way to address it without altering or going around the personnel policy. He said that because Burgess went above and beyond his duties as a lister by working to straighten out the town’s E911 system, that he could simply be paid for that, and it would cover what he’s owed for his paid time off. Doing as the other board members wished, Chioffi said, would be irresponsible and illegal.
“I am not saying that we throw out the policy; I’m just saying in this case we should make it prospective to the next calendar year or in the case of elected officials the beginning of their elected term,” said Ashcroft.
She and Chioffi then argued over whether her motion had passed. Ashcroft said she would challenge the chair over the motion being valid. Chioffi said a parliamentarian was needed to decide this, Ashcroft disagreed.
“I’m trying to set something right,” said Ashcroft during their back-and-forth.
“No, you’re trying to act as chairman of the board,” said Chioffi.
Their argument continued, getting more heated as it went, referencing past discussion on this matter.
“As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to bypass the chairman of this board then I’ll have the vice chairman take over the meeting and I’ll just go home, and that’ll be fine,” said Chioffi near the end of it. “You can all do whatever you want to do. Since you want to challenge the chair of this board that you elected and that you show no confidence in ….”
It’s not clear whether the sound on the recording was cut off or if the board stopped talking at that point.
“Anyway, can we proceed with the meeting, please?” said Ashcroft.
Chioffi said it could proceed with department head reports. The matter didn’t come up again.
keith.whitcomb
@rutlandherald.com
keith.whitcomb@rutlandherald.com

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