Lawyer says Poland selectmen’s actions follow charter

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POLAND — Two selectmen removed in the Jan. 3 recall election have obtained a legal opinion that says they acted properly when they voted to fire the town manager in October.

“We have maintained right along that we didn’t violate the town charter and that what we did was done correctly,” former Selectman Larry Moreau said.

In an interview Wednesday, Moreau said he contacted Bryan Dench, the attorney who assisted the town when it developed the charter a few years ago, to set the record straight.

“There was so much misinformation out there prior to the recall; it approached character assassination,” Moreau said.

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Members of the ad hoc recall committee accused Moreau, Jim Fernald and Wendy Sanborn of violating their oaths of office and failing to follow the town charter when they voted to dismiss Rosemary Kulow “without cause.”

In his letter to Moreau, Dench said Kulow and the town had a written three-year contract, authorized by law and the charter, which contained a severance clause giving the town the right to terminate Kulow’s agreement “without cause,” provided Kulow is paid a minimum of three months’ salary and is able to continue health benefits for her and her family for three months.

The agreement eliminates the obligations to pay severance pay and continue health insurance benefits if the town chose to terminate Kulow “for just cause.”

Dench said Kulow received the severance pay and continued health insurance benefits.

Dench also found that the town charter contained nothing to limit the selectmen’s authority to enter such a contract, nor does the charter require the selectmen to terminate a town manager’s employment “only for cause.”

Dench also pointed out that the section of the town charter dealing with the procedure to terminate the town manager uses the word “may” in describing actions for selectmen to follow, and that “may” gives permission for such a procedure, but it does not mandate it.

“It is common practice for towns to negotiate for and include provisions for termination without cause in the employment contracts of town managers,” Dench wrote.

His letter to Moreau states: “The board did not act improperly, its actions were expressly contemplated under her contract, and the board of selectmen did not violate the town charter.”

Fernald confirmed that he and Moreau have filed their nomination papers for the special election March 4 for two two-year seats that the recall election opened up.

Sanborn, whose third and final three-year term was scheduled to expire in April, does not intend to run for the month remaining on her term.

Town Clerk Judy Akers said it appears there will be at least four candidates for the two-year seats and one candidate for the one-month seat in the March election.

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