Rye Selectmen defend need for non-public meetings
Text of portion of July 13 Rye Board meeting as followup to study and Herald articles
Two members of the Rye Board of Selectmen defended the need for and number of non-public meetings over the past few years in the wake of a Rye Reflections study that appeared in its July issue. Selectman Joe Mills took issue with Jack Driscoll of Rye Reflections for "stirring the pot", specifying a Portsmouth Herald story.
Chief Michael Magnant (Portsmouth Police Department Photo)
That story followed the the hiring of Portsmouth Police Chief Michael Magnant as Rye Town Administrator, effective in August. The announcement was made at a brief Selectmen's meeting on July 1, following a series of non-public meetings that included screening 19 applicants. Selectmen Craig Musselman spoke in favor of the Magnant appointment but abstained from voting, because Magnant is related to Musselman's wife. (See Portsmouth Herald story
on the subject for further details.)
Magnant replaces interim Town Administrator Mike Farrell, who has taken a similar position in Georgetown, Massachusetts. The last permanent Town Administrator in Rye was former Rye Police chief Alan Gould who held the position for two years, resigning in September, 2008.
Chairwoman Priscilla Jenness said non-public meetings result from Rye not having a Town Manager. (Selectman Musselman was on vacation but participated via a telephone hookup in the early portion of the meeting, which is covered in the first item of "Rye Crisp"
in this issue.)
The Portsmouth Herald
also published an editorial
on the matter entitled, "Rye selectmen 'protest too much'".
(The following transcript is from the New Business portion of the July 13 meeting and was drawn from the official tape recording):
MILLS — … the Tuesday's July 7 Portsmouth Herald
, namely Mr. Driscoll. I took affront to a lot of the articles in here, Mr. Driscoll, that you printed or you quoted in the newspaper regarding Mr. Magnant's hiring.
DRISCOLL — Portsmouth Herald
MILLS — Yeh. Portsmouth Herald
DRISCOLL — I haven't published anything in the Portsmouth Herald
MILLS — No. You're quoted. You stirred the pot.
DRISCOLL — Oh, OK.
MILLS — OK? So I would just like to start out with: We go into non-public sessions to protect other people's reputation, OK? You go to … and you have another cohort with you that thinks nothing in Rye, or the United States, is right. You go back on Earl Rinker's resignation, and you say that you would like to see it known. Well, you go ask Mr. Rinker if he could have his attorney release us from the confidentiality statement that we had to sign when he resigned, and I'll sing like a canary. OK?
DRISCOLL — Could you read that particular part? I don't think that's quite representative of what it says.
MILLS — Oh, it doesn't? OK. Excuse me just one minute. I will read it to you. "Rye Selectmen also terminated the Town Administrator during a non-public meeting and never gave a public reason. In October, 2004, then Administrator Earl Rinker was placed on paid leave and shortly thereafter resigned."
DRISCOLL — Right.
MILLS — OK?
DRISCOLL — That's their words.
MILLS — Well, it's Herald
BETH HALL (Portsmouth Herald
reporter) — I wasn't there that week …
MILLS — No, this is about the lady that quoted the article in today's paper — and I don't want to use her term again, this term that she's got. But they are basing it on your stirring the pot (addressing Driscoll), OK? I can't make it any plainer. And the other one you talk about, the request that you sent to Board Chairman Priscilla about the Beach Commission? We didn't accept their recommendation that night, OK? That's why we had the non-public session. That gentleman had re-applied for his position, and neither Priscilla nor I would act on it, or the new Beach Commission's recommendations. That's why we went into non-public session to find out what in hell was going on. And I can't make it any plainer to you.
DRISCOLL — Well, that's the first I heard that. I mean, I sent two messages one by …
MILLS — You don't read the paper?
DRISCOLL — Well, if I could respond, I sent an email to the board, and I sent a letter to the board, asking why the non-public was being held, and I never got an answer.
MILLS — I'm giving you the answer right now.
DRISCOLL — (Starts to respond … ).
MILLS — You sent it to Priscilla. The trouble with you guys is you write stories you don't check the facts, OK? You didn't come to me on any one of these articles in here and ask me the question, OK? And the morning's reporter for the Herald, she never asked questions. When they profiled Mr. Azzi's two main editorials over the Public Safety Building, OK?, they never came and asked me a question. And neither did you when you put into Rye Reflections
DRISCOLL — Put what in Rye Reflections
MILLS — What?
DRISCOLL — Put what in Rye Reflections?
MILLS — Mr. Azzi's stories on the Public Safety Building. Did you ask me any questions about it? You took his word for it.
DRISCOLL — That's a long time ago. I …
MILLS — Yeh. I never forget, Mr. Driscoll. Never.
DRISCOLL — Sure, I asked you questions at that time …
MILLS — You never asked me a question. Never.
DRISCOLL — Really …
MILLS — Ask Mr. Gould. He'll tell you the same thing. When you start tearing me apart, questioning my authority and my truthfulness, I get upset.
DRISCOLL — Well, didn't you run on the basis of not having secret meetings …
MILLS — We didn't have secret meetings.
DRISCOLL — What is non-public?
MILLS — We're protecting somebody's reputation. Didn't you just hear me?
DRISCOLL — Not in each and every case.
MILLS — Oh, no? It's to keep us out of one helluva legal mess.
DRISCOLL — So, half of your meetings last year were to protect somebody's reputation.
MILLS — Very possibly.
(Further discussion ensued with reporter Hall, Jenness and Mills about non-public procedures, during which Jenness points out, as an example, that $5 million was voted on by the people in the town for Conservation purchases, and working out the details may require a number of non-public meetings.)
JENNESS — It's not that every non-public meeting is a personnel issue, it's not. We're not under a Town Manager (some indescipherable words about getting three people together). And I should like to say right now that we don't hold meetings in the parking lot or on the telephone or by email. That's why if we have to say it in confidentiality either to protect someone, or something would be lost, we do it in non-public, following the RSA — and I notice both the Portsmouth Herald
and Rye Reflections
noted that we had done nothing illegal. That was the opening statement both papers, or words to that effect. We try to follow the rules. When they're sealed, that's because, whatever the reason for holding it, would last longer than 72 hours. If is a non-public, it's normally after 72 hours it's available. But, if it's — for instance, I go back to Conservation, because that has happened on several occasions, and, if you are trying to put together land that links a corridor, a wildlife corridor, it takes a long time, and 72 hours just wouldn't make it, to protect that kind of a thing.
(END OF PORTION OF NEW BUSINESS SEGMENT)
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