On Thursday, June 4, the Warren Select Board will release its response to a grievance hearing held May 28 over the town’s termination of its road crew manager, Raemon Weston.
The select board terminated Weston on April 28 after a highway employee filed a grievance against Weston. Additionally, Weston had sent an email to the select board complaining that the highway department was not following safety protocols associated with the Stay Home, Stay Safe order contributing to the tension between himself, his employees and the board.
On May 28, Weston and his attorney, Richard Cassidy, appealed to the select board for a reconsideration Weston’s termination. Weston requested that this grievance hearing be held in public. The full hearing can be found on MRVTV. Normally, per Vermont’s Open Meeting Law, any hearing regarding personnel issues would be conducted in executive session to protect the employee’s privacy.
Select board member Bob Ackland was not present at the hearing or in the decision-making process since, according to Cassidy, he was involved in Weston’s purported termination. Cassidy explained that Ackland asked Weston to do hydroseeding on his personal property at the town’s expense. When he refused, Ackland modified his request and offered to pay Weston for his time but still wanted Weston to use the town’s equipment for personal purposes, said Cassidy.
Ackland said that the allegation that he’d ask Weston to hydroseed was not true.
“I never asked Rae to hydroseed. I never asked him anything about it. I did ask the board in open session, when we were talking about renting our hydroseeder. I said I’d be happy to pay for some pasture work that I needed filled quickly. Everybody laughed and that was the end of the discussion. That was all that happened. Rae wasn’t there. I have no idea how he got wind of that,” Ackland said.
He said he recused himself at the advice of the town attorney.
“We think that that is a motivating factor for the decision that has been improperly made to terminate Mr. Westons’s employment. We think it’s a violation of public policy for a board member to be motivated by a personal interest. For that reason, we ask you to overturn this purported decision,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy was careful to refer to Weston’s firing as a “purported” decision, since the original decision to terminate Weston’s employment was made by the board in executive session, that is, in private. “That’s a violation of Vermont statute. The law is clear that a decision made in violation of the Open Meeting Law is not a decision at all.”
The minutes from the Warren Select Board’s April 24 meeting show an executive session was held, but that the board came out and took no action. On April 28, the board met again in executive session, exited that session and in open session voted to terminate Weston’s employment. At that same meeting, in a 3-2 vote, the board passed a motion to deliver a letter of reprimand to road crew member Chris Kathan. Board chair Andy Cunningham and board members Randy Graves and Camilla Behn voted in favor of the motion with board members Bob Ackland and Luke Youmell in opposition.
Cassidy also argued that, regardless of the outcome of the employment decision, Weston should be paid properly for unacknowledged overtime. The details of the unpaid overtime dilemma can be found in the video.