Letter to the selectmen from Jane Wingate

On February 7, Jane Wingate read the following letter to the Farmington Board of Selectmen.

Jane sent a shortened version to The Rochester Times. Editor John Nolan said unless she strike the words "illegal" and "bogus" and removed the reference to Tony Mincu, he would not publish the letter. So much for calling a spade a spade. So much for truth. Let's just flood the media with yet more euphemisms.

Consulting town administrator Alan Gould said that the 108 petitioners' demand that the selectmen give specific reasons for not hiring Paula Proulx for town administrator would be discussed in non-public session, and that the selectmen would have their response for the petitioners at the next selectmen's meeting.

NOTE: the BS will not be meeting next Monday night. Instead, they will be meeting on Wednesday, February 16, when there will also be a public hearing to discuss a warrant article about reverting to three rather than five selectmen.

See new heckles for Charlie King.

Board of Selectmen
Farmington, NH
February 7, 2011

On Monday, January 31, in public session, Patience Taylor presented to the Board a petition signed by ninety-six residents of Farmington, requesting that the Board immediately hire Paula Proulx as Town Administrator. Since then, twelve more citizens have signed the petition.

The petition itself was not read at that meeting, so for the benefit of those citizens who might be listening at home, I will read it now:

After serving successfully for eight months in 2006 and into 2007 as Farmington’s interim Town Administrator, Paula Proulx applied for the fulltime position of Town Administrator.

On January 29, 2007, the majority of the Board of Selectmen legally voted, in accordance with RSA 41:8, to appoint Paula as Town Administrator. Because of a legally insupportable Rule of Four, she was denied the job.

In November of 2010, Paula Proulx applied again for the position of Town Administrator. Now the board has a chance to rectify its earlier act of injustice.

We the undersigned citizens of Farmington hereby ask the selectmen to immediately appoint Paula Proulx as Town Administrator of the Town of Farmington.

In 2006, after Town Administrator Paul Weston left, Board chairman Paula Proulx served as interim Town Administrator for almost nine months, and did so with a high level of competence and dedication to the town she grew up in, and knows as well as anyone. Under her watch as Town Administrator, the town meeting in March went off without a hitch, with all budgets in good order. The LGC (Local Government Center), who were there observing our town meeting, subsequently ran a photo in their monthly publication, along with the approving caption, “A successful town meeting requires preparation.”

After Paula applied for the job of Town Administrator, and was legally voted in, then kept from the job under the bogus and illegal Rule of Four, the selectmen, apparently eager to put the whole dirty business behind them, rushed to hire a new Town Administrator, and came up with Tony Mincu, and we all know what happened there. Around town people asked what he actually contributed during selectmen’s meetings, and it was obvious that chair Paula Proulx spent a fair amount of time keeping Tony on track, or bailing the town out of his messes.

And even though it soon became obvious that Tony wasn’t working out, it wasn’t till the middle of last summer that he left.

This time, however, the selectmen aren’t in any hurry to rush in a replacement. Since mid-summer, they have put out four calls for applicants, and among the many who applied was Paula Proulx.

The selectmen denied Paula the job, even though among all the candidates, she was a known quantity, and had already proven she could do the job. One might conclude that in draggimg their heels with all the ads, the selectmen have been determined to hire anyone but Paula.

The other day I was talking with a man from New Durham. He mentioned that he had worked at Davidson Rubber for 27 years. I asked him if he knew Paula. He said he did, and he offered that she was very capable. I asked him if he was aware that she had been legally voted to be Town Administrator four years ago but was kept from the job by a trumped-up, illegal rule. He said he had followed the news on that. I then told him that she had recently applied again, and was again denied the job. Without missing a beat, he said, “They’re afraid of her, because she’s good.”

In 2007, I came before the Board with an article about the town of Newmarket’s innovative plan to hire a new Town Administrator. Last Friday, February 4, to make sure I had my facts straight, I called the town hall in Newmarket, and spoke with Kathy Castle, the executive secretary to the Town Administrator, who confirmed my recollection.

Newmarket, about the size of Farmington with 9,000 residents, has seven town councilors rather than selectmen. In 2007, the councilors held a meeting for the people to meet the two final applicants, to say which one they thought would be the better one for the job. The people asked their questions, and in the end, the councilors respected their judgment, and hired the one they preferred. It turns out that the new Town Administrator was a citizen of the town—enormously liked, respected, and qualified. The choice was a good one. The man is still in the job, four years later, and Newmarket is happy with the people’s choice.

But when, in 2007, I asked the Board if we might do as Newmarket was doing, the selectmen refused to discuss the merits of the idea.

Now, this Board might say that they are not responsible for the illegal action taken by the Board in 2007, and they might even dismiss the petitioners’ demands that Paula be hired immediately, saying that the people elected them, and that when comes to hiring, all that is required of them is to follow a set protocol. And no one would dispute that they would be within their legal right to do that. But the Board might remind themselves that in a democracy, citizens have a right—in fact, a duty—to take their elected representatives to task if those representatives are going against the welfare and the wishes of the people. And if they ignore the wishes of the people, there is always the next election.

Given Paula’s virtually flawless eight-month performance as Town Administrator, the petitioners deserve to be given specific, rational reasons why this Board would not give her the job. Why won’t the selectmen hold a meeting like that which Newmarket held? What harm could come of that? (Perhaps the Board might recall that when Paula was first elected selectman in 2004, she garnered 577 votes, more—it was said—than any other candidate in the history of the town.)

So why would the Board not want to hire a qualified local girl—one who was Valedictorian of our high school, and graduated with honors from Keene State College? Does this board not value that kind of intelligence? Does this board dismiss her impressive resume? And how does her resume stack up against those of the scores of others who applied for the job? Why does the Board keep putting out ads for applicants, when they sit week after week with a perfectly qualified candidate right under their noses? And another thing Paula offers the town is consistency. She could slip right back into the job, immediately employing all her knowledge of the town. And we all know she’s not likely to go anywhere. Any other candidate would require a couple of years to really learn the ropes, and then he might move on. In the meantime, the selectmen are paying a consultant $75 an hour. Does doing that constitute good stewardship of our taxpayer dollars?

And what about the ethics, what about the morality of their denying Paula the job? In the final analysis, does this Board want to go down in the history of this town as perpetuating the grievous wrong done in 2007? Does it want to continue to shove under the floorboards of this chamber the town’s sordid secret: that in not hiring Paula Proulx as Town Administrator four years ago, the governing body of this town broke the law of the state of New Hampshire? And will the selectmen who now deny her the job refuse to give 108 petitioners valid and specific reasons for not hiring her?