PARIS — Town Manager Phil Tarr on Thursday denied accusations about his job performance that were made in his absence at Monday's meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
Resident Janet Jamison accused him of barring town employees from speaking to the public and pointed to an accounting incident from his time as Skowhegan town manager as evidence he wasn't doing his job.
Resident Barbara Payne said Tarr had ignored her request for a legal opinion on bonuses paid to employees of a quasi-municipal entity such as Norway-Paris Solid Waste Corp., although Payne, a member of the NPSW board, refused to say specifically that she was referring to bonuses for NPSW employees.
Tarr was out of town at an appointment Monday.
On Thursday, he denied that he'd banned town employees from speaking to the public.
“We do have people come in and request documents and information which we provide to them,” he said. The manager said he often invites people into his office and asks if he can help them. “Somehow that got misinterpreted to mean there's a gag order, which is not the case,” he said.
He said the criticism about funding allocation in Skowhegan was taken out of context.
Jamison pointed to a recent story in the Morning Sentinel newspaper stating that money from the the Urban Rural Initiative Program had been misplaced in general revenue rather than the capital reserve account.
Tarr said the town of Skowhegan complied with Government Accounting Standards Board principles. “The money was sitting in a reserve account waiting to be spent, which was what was supposed to have been done.”
He said the town passed several audits while he was there and was performing well financially.
As for Payne's request for a legal opinion, Tarr said there were two issues at play. One was whether a citizen can have the Town Office seek a legal opinion to a citizen's question.
Tarr took issue with Payne asking as a citizen rather than addressing the issue through the board.
“What I got out of it was that she complained to the Paris selectmen about a matter that should have rightfully been in front of the solid waste board, of which she is a member,” Tarr said.
Tarr is the chairman of the NPSW board, a designation Jamison criticized at Monday's meeting as inappropriate and a conflict of interest.
Tarr said NPSW employees did get a 1 percent bonus at the end of 2010 as planned, a policy adopted by the previous solid waste board. He said the Finance Committee is working on a 2011 budget that doesn't include a bonus for NPSW employees.
He said he supports rolling 1 percent into NPSW employees wages. “If we don't, then the employees take a cut in pay,” Tarr said.
A resident donated more than $100 to pay for Thanksgiving turkeys for the employees in response to controversy over the bonuses.
The Board of Selectmen will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10, at Paris Town Hall.