PARIS — The continuing controversy over selectmen’s decision not to reappoint Janet Jamison to the Budget Committee was again the centerpiece of discussion at the board’s Monday night meeting.

Selectmen responded to criticism from residents and Jamison accused board members of dishonesty and repeated her accusation that Town Manager Amy Bernard organized her ouster.

The issue has been festering since selectmen declined reappoint Jamison to the committee last month, claiming her confrontational demeanor disrupted its operation.

Jamison has vociferously denied the board’s claims and accused selectmen and Bernard of punishing her for frequently criticizing and questioning their decisions.

At the Nov. 12 board meeting, members of the committee, including Chairman Vick Hodgkins, sternly criticized the board and urged them to reconsider its decision.

On Monday, Budget Committee member Peter Kilgore added his voice to the calls to reconsider the appointment of Jamison and former Policy and Procedures Committee member Jean Smart.

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Smart’s application for reappointment to the policy committee was denied by selectmen in June, prompting similar claims from residents of retaliation for Smart’s criticism of the board.

Selectman Robert Wessels took the opportunity Monday to respond to the criticism leveled against selectmen.

“I’ve been asked by the townspeople to help lead this town, and to be a true leader is rarely easy,” Wessels said, reading from a prepared statement. “But to be a leader that takes an unpopular stand is even tougher.”

He said the decision not to reappoint Jamison to the committee was not easy, pleasant or popular but he was still convinced it was the right thing to do and was not made flippantly or vindictively. 

As a selectman, he believed he had a mandate to create a positive, forward-thinking atmosphere in the town’s governing boards and committees, Wessels said.

“My goal is not to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation … but rather to create assurance and confidence that the boards and committees of Paris will be a place where varying opinions will be heard and discussed in a safe and respectful manner.”

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Jamison, who attended the meeting Monday, was quick to respond to Wessels’ remarks.

“What you did was deceitful and dishonest,” Jamison declared. “Shame on you.”

Jamison accused the board of colluding “behind closed doors” to deny her reappointment and give her seat to another applicant.

She repeated her denial that she had done anything to disrupt the Budget Committee’s work or intimidate other members. Instead, the problem lay at the feet of Bernard, who lacks financial experience, she said. 

“This has her fingerprints all over it,” Jamison said, pointing at Bernard.

pmcguire@sunjournal.com

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