NORWAY — Town managers from Norway and Paris will work with members of the Norway Paris Community TV board of directors to make sure its members observe the rules governing the group and behave appropriately at meetings.
Selectmen from Paris and Norway held a joint meeting Thursday to go over some of the concerns Paris selectmen have voiced about the way the board is run.
Members of the NPC-TV board contend that the allegations are overblown, and in some cases, fabricated.
Paris selectmen Chairman Bob Kirchherr said that his observations of the board indicated “significant administrative and operational problems,” including a lack of formal meeting minutes, a lack of required public meeting notification and a sense that the board was overreaching its authority to “micro-manage” day-to-day station operations.
Paris Town Manager Amy Bernard said she had addressed the issues with members of the board, but her attempts “fell on deaf ears.”
The NPC-TV board, tasked with overseeing the station, has six members, three from each town appointed by their respective selectmen.
To compound administrative issues, Kirchherr reported “disturbing” behavior by board members, including cursing at one another during meetings.
Added to that was September’s physical altercation between Rick Kimball, a Paris NPC-TV representative, and Bruce Cook, a representative from Norway. Kimball has since been formally reprimanded by Paris selectmen.
He worried that because of the group’s behavior, Paris would have a difficult time finding a new member for the board. Kimball, who is an Oxford resident, is the only Paris appointee currently on the NPC-TV board.
Norway Town Manager David Holt said he was aware of the behavior, including the cursing, and had instructed one of Norway’s NPC-TV board members it would not be tolerated.
NPC-TV Chairman Matt Gurney of Norway attended Thursday’s meeting, along with Norway representatives Ingrid Small and Lou Page, and Rick Kimball.
Gurney said the board met this week for the first time since Dec. 4. Although it has been audio-recording its meetings since May, he said it would now also keep formal written minutes.
Early on, board members were excited and energetic about their role in NPC-TV and were meeting every week, Gurney said. That enthusiasm was unfortunately “misconstrued” as micro-management, he told selectmen.
Many of the board’s mistakes were made because of its inexperience, Gurney said.
“We all came into this very much as novices,” he told selectmen.
Selectmen suggested some of the board’s administrative issues may arise from the fact that it has three separate organizing documents – a town ordinance, a set of bylaws, and a charter. Rewriting the documents to clarify the NPC-TV board’s role could sort out many misunderstandings, Paris Selectman Sam Elliot suggested.
For his part, Page disputed the alleged lack of minutes, contending he kept handwritten minutes for every meeting. He further called NPC-TV manager Steve Galvin “a liar” and stated that the Paris selectmen had called the joint meeting to “ridicule the board’s hard work.”
Kimball disputed the allegation, made in a letter to the Paris board by Norway resident Barbara Payne, that he was primarily on the NPC-TV board to advance ‘Men on Fire,’ a Christian men’s nonprofit he directs, or that the members of the board were maneuvering to remove Galvin.
“I find that very offensive,” Kimball said. The Paris Board of Selectmen seemed bound and determined to continue making NPC-TV a controversial issue, he said.
Norway’s recently-appointed NPC-TV member, Ingrid Small, who shoots and edits videos for Kimball’s Men on Fire group, also denied having an agenda on the board and urged selectmen and NPC-TV members to work together to help the community.
No formal action was taken by either board in regards to NPC-TV, but Holt and Bernard agreed to work with directors to make it function more smoothly. Selectmen may revisit the issue in the future.
“I don’t think there is anything here that can’t be solved,” Kirchherr said. “But I also can’t see anything that can be ignored.”