The Sherborn Board of Selectmen discussed, at times heatedly, at their meeting on Thursday, an employment issue in the Town Clerk’s office regarding an employee that town counsel determined is actually holding two positions.
Chair of the Board of Selectmen Tom Twining started the discussion by saying that the issues they were addressing were not of a personal nature. He said the selectmen were looking into this issue to protect the taxpayers.
Town Clerk Carole Marple made a statement to “correct some misinformation.”
She said that back in September an employee retired and she began the interviewing process to find a replacement and eventually hired Ani Gigarjian on September 30 and “couldn’t be happier” with her choice.
“I hired the best possible candidate for the same number of hours at the same rate the position had been budgeted for this year,” said Marple.
On Thursday afternoon town counsel ruled that the position held by Gigarjian is actually two positions.
Marple said that for the 14 years she has worked for the town one person has always held the two positions.
The previous town clerk Lucy Almasian said that in her 21 years as town clerk for Sherborn, the two positions had always been held by one person.
Twining said Gigarjian could face legal ramifications from the state ethics commission, which could include a fine and or jail time. He added that he would like to find the best way to avoid that.
Sherborn Town Counsel Barbara St. Andre said that although the two positions in the clerk’s office could create a conflict of interest, Gigarjian could receive counsel from her to learn how to avoid that conflict.
At the previous selectmen’s meeting the selectmen voted that the town should not hire part-time employees to work more than 21 hours per week because they would receive full-time benefits and a pension that the town could not currently afford. DeRensis and Twining said after speaking with the town treasurer, they discovered the benefits and pension would cost taxpayers $30,000 a year. They said they believe it would not be fiscally responsible to run the town in such a way.
In her statement to the board, Marple said she agreed that issue of benefits and pension cost is important but “unfortunately the position in my office was filled in September before this discussion began and at this time, for this position, that issue is moot. I urge the board to continue the discussion and develop a responsible policy that will provide guidance going forward.”
She also wanted to publicly address how the selectmen conducted themselves over the issue. “I am dismayed…that during this entire time, you, Mr. DeRensis, the driver in this, have not once picked up the phone and talked to me about your concerns—not once. I am dismayed that not one selectman picked up the phone to talk to me. Not one selectman stopped into my office to discuss the issues.”
DeRensis responded by saying that he spoke to Marple Sept. 21 at the Sherborn Personnel Board meeting and told her not to continue with the interview process.
Marple claimed the never conversation never took place.
Chairman of the Council on Aging George Shea, COA Director Karen Juhl and Marple asked the selectmen that Gigarjian’s second position in the town, COA Volunteer Coordinator, be designated as a special municipal employee. If the selectmen were to give her that designation, it would create less of an ethics conflict.
DeRensis said the designation would create a precedent that would allow for similar situations. He said he is looking for Marple to relieve Gigarjian of her position until the selectmen can reach a decision.
Juhl implored the selectmen, stating that she needs a coordinator during the holiday season.
Selectmen George Pucci made a motion to designate the COA Volunteer Coordinator position as a special municipal employee.
Neither Twining nor DeRensis seconded the motion.
Twining said that he did not feel comfortable making any further decision without talking further with town counsel and hearing a decision from the state ethics commission.