PARIS — Several residents protested the location of Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, saying it should be held in a larager space to accommodate the overflow crowd.

The board meetings have drawn large numbers of residents since a 3-2 vote on June 22 to terminate Town Manager Sharon Jackson’s employment contract without cause. The town office has a capacity of 50 people, and the fire station is used for gatherings expected to draw more people, such as public hearings and the annual town meeting.

Selectman Raymond Glover motioned at the beginning of the meeting to move the meeting to the fire station.

“I say that not allowing everyone into a meeting, a public meeting, which we are, would be a violation of the freedom of access statute,” Glover said.

Selectman Troy Ripley noted a 2007 meeting on tax assessments that excluded residents after a water main break forced a change of venue from the fire station to the town office. Ripley said it was determined after that meeting that freedom of access is met if members of the media are given access to the meetings, but also agreed that meetings in the station should be allowed if the fire chief is not opposed.

“This venue is no different than the other ones that were taking place two years ago,” Ripley said. “However, I do agree that the public, as many of them as want to come, should be able to come and observe a selectmen’s meeting.”

Interim Town Manager Michael Thorne said he has met with Chief Brad Frost of the Paris Fire Department and Chief David Verrier of the Paris Police Department about the issue. Board of Selectmen’s Chairman David Ivey said he would meet with the two chiefs this week.

Ivey did not accept Glover’s motion to move the meeting, drawing some angry responses, but said he would consider scheduling the next selectmen’s meeting at the fire station. He later allowed windows in the room to be opened to allow people outside to listen to the proceedings.

On questioning from resident Bob Jewell, Thorne said he had suggested to a selectman that the meeting should be moved to the fire station. He said he did not remember which selectman he suggested the action to.

“There seems to be a lot of collusion here, and any reasonable person, any reasonable person that is in this building, no matter what side of the fence they fall on, would make the conclusion that there’s collusion and exclusion going on within this board,” Jewell said.

Jewell also charged that the board was not hearing from all residents who wanted to speak.

“Most people can’t speak,” he said. “You’re denying them of their right of citizenship.”

Resident Darlene Glover said the board was “purposefully disenfranchising” residents by holding the meeting in the town office. She also questioned why a possible relocation was not considered after earlier meetings attracted large crowds.

The June 22 vote terminated Jackson’s contract without cause, an action allowed by the contract provided she is compensated one month’s salary and benefits for every consecutive year of service to the town. Jackson said at that meeting that a buyout of the contract would cost the town $40,000.

Ivey said at the beginning of Monday’s meeting that there would be no comments made about Jackson because the matter had become a legal issue. Jackson recently filed an appeal with the Oxford County Superior Court seeking a review of the June 22 vote and reinstatement of her contract.

Resident Ron Fitts said that he did not believe the buyout would significantly affect the budget. He said the town had already budgeted for Jackson’s salary, which was set for $64,116 a year. Thorne is currently working for $600 a week, or $31,200 a year.

“The town really doesn’t have to come up with much more money to get us through,” he said.

“We don’t have to come up with any more money,” Ivey said.

Forrie Everett, chairman of the Budget Committee, disagreed. He said the town attorney’s rate is $250 an hour plus expenses, and the town has budgeted $8,000 for legal fees this year.

“I don’t think it’s going to take long to eat that up,” Everett said.

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