Rumford Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs, seated, was suspended with pay Friday by a 3-2 vote of the Board of Selectmen. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin)

The Rumford Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 on Friday to suspend Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs with pay. Clockwise from left are Selectman John Pepin, Selectman Peter Chase, town attorney Jennifer Kreckel, board Chairman Chris Brennick, Selectman Mark Belanger and Selectman Jim Windover. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin)

RUMFORD — Linda-Jean Briggs, in the first year of a three-year contract as town manager, was suspended with pay Friday by a 3-2 vote of the Board of Selectmen.

The action was taken following an hourlong emergency executive session.

Briggs said the reason for the suspension involved the town revaluation.

She said RJD Appraisal of Pittsfield, contracted by the Rumford Board of Assessors, had begun a property tax revaluation and residents did not know they’d be coming.

“We didn’t know they were going out into the field,” Briggs said. “We didn’t even know they were coming. They just showed up. The negative manner in which the word got out, and because people were refusing to allow them in, their president decided to pull his crew.”

Briggs said RJD Appraisal has been dismissed and won’t be coming back until early in 2019.

“They blamed me for people showing up and they hadn’t been notified,” she said.

Selectmen Jim Windover, Mark Belanger and John Pepin voted in favor of the suspension. Selectmen Peter Chase and Chris Brennick voted against.

Asked about the reason for the action taken by the board, Brennick said, “I have no comment at this time.”

Windover made the motion, seconded by Belanger, to suspend the town manager with pay until she has legal representation for a future hearing.

“I don’t think L-J has committed any crime or anything that warrants a suspension,” Chase said. “Again, I think it’s communication and that’s something that can be worked on.”

Town attorney Jennifer Kreckel said, “I want to make it clear that L-J has the right to have people at the hearing testify on her behalf, and it’s her choice whether it’s in open or closed session.”

Before the action by the board, some of the 20 people in attendance, mostly town employees, spoke on her behalf.

“I’ve been here for 28 years. I’ve worked for a number of town managers and L-J rises to the top,” Police Chief Stacy Carter said. “She has gone above and beyond, treating the departments with respect, getting us to work together. This is the first time in many years that the town is actually moving forward, and a lot of that has to do with our current town manager.

Executive Secretary Margaret “Peggy” Collette said, “I’m incredibly proud to work under this woman. She does more in a 12-hour day than I’ve seen a lot of people do.”

She added, “I’m disgusted how our elected officials conduct themselves the way they do. To risk losing her would be an incredible injustice to this area.”

After leaving the conference room, an emotional Briggs hugged her supporters, then met briefly with some of her employees before making a statement.

“I’m profoundly disappointed,” she said. “I don’t believe their actions are in the best interest of the town. I know there’s a faction in this town, some of whom are elected, that don’t want to move this town forward.

“People of Rumford deserve better and I wanted to be here, and hope to be here for the three-year contract I signed in good faith,” she said.

Brennick said the board decided to meet again Monday to appoint someone to perform the town manager’s duties. That will take place at 5 p.m. in the Municipal Building.

“I want to convey to the people of Rumford that our town government will continue to work. The selectmen are working diligently to ensure that services to the people continue to run smoothly,” Brennick said.

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