Employee purchases spark debate among Strong selectmen

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STRONG — Selectmen on Tuesday evening had a heated debate on the potential liabilities of allowing employees to make personal purchases through town accounts without being accountable to officials.

Highway Department foreman Duayne Boyd and the board’s highway department liaison, Mike Pond, challenged board Chairman Dick Worthley’s right to speak to a reporter about a recent personal purchase by a town employee through a town account that exempts sales tax.

Worthley learned that Boyd did not pay sales tax on a personal purchase at Goings Electric Supply in Farmington. The company sent an invoice to the town showing Boyd had not paid sales tax on the item. Worthley asked him to resolve that issue, which Boyd did.

Pond questioned Worthley’s assumption that Boyd deliberately did not pay the sales tax.

If a business provides an agency or municipality with a discount, that doesn’t mean the employee is acting improperly, Pond said.

Regional School Union 9’s policy doesn’t allow employees to make personal purchases through the district, according to Selectman Rodney Spiller, a forestry teacher at Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington.

“Maybe Boyd didn’t notice he wasn’t charged the sales tax,” Pond suggested.

Pond also noted that a second news article by the same reporter after the Sept. 11 board meeting was written after a Freedom of Access Act request to view town records. The article suggested that two departments and two individuals were involved in the review of purchases, and Pond said he was upset that his reputation was being damaged.

The article did not mention Boyd or Pond by name.

“I don’t have nothing to hide,” Pond said.

He suggested that any questions about alleged financial impropriety be addressed directly to him.

“I don’t doubt that before this is over, there will be a lawsuit,” Pond said.

Boyd asked Worthley how private information from the executive session was released to the public.

Worthley said the executive session was about the personnel policy.

Boyd said employees should never be discussed in executive session without the employee having the option of attending. Doing otherwise is illegal, he said.

“What got us in trouble was too many executive sessions,” Worthley said.

In other matters, selectmen accepted the resignation of newly elected school board member Chastity Hill.

Until someone is appointed, former board member Barbara Worthley has volunteered to attend as a director.

Selectmen also authorized Pond to move ahead with paperwork to finalize a $145,268 loan from Franklin Savings Bank to pave Pond Road. That’s an increase of about $1,500 because of the price of asphalt, he said. He will have the loan officer come to the next meeting so selectmen could sign the documents.

Pond also proposed installing a pump station to resolve  flooding in the basement of the Forster Memorial Building during heavy rainstorms. The taxpayers approved $6,000 in March in anticipation for addressing the drainage problems that have caused extensive damage to the meeting rooms and dining room and kitchen.

Selectmen also agreed to have an attorney review details on foreclosed properties before they are sold.

Spiller noted that a foreclosed property on the South Strong Road appears to have been sold privately and new owners are working on the house.

Worthley said he will investigate the issue before the next meeting.

Forster Memorial Building in Strong.

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