Manchester employees invited to sound off NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

April 28, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Manchester Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. and the Manchester council were to hold a closed meeting last night to let employees sound off about the town government.

A memo dated April 26 was sent by the mayor and council to all town employees, inviting them to the closed meeting at the town hall.

"It's nothing that we haven't done before," Mr. Warehime said yesterday.

It was unclear whether the closed meeting would violate the state open meetings law, which generally requires such meetings to be open unless public officials are discussing such things as specific personnel actions, contract negotiations or matters involving proprietary interests.

And there seemed to be differences of opinion among town officials about the precise nature of the closed meeting.

Councilwoman Charlotte Collett said yesterday she had a previous engagement and could not attend the meeting. But she said it was to be a chance for any town staff member "to say if they like what has been going on" since Terry Short was hired as town manager.

She said it has been about a year since Mr. Short was hired, and the meeting was part of a council performance review. "I don't know what the meeting is about, and I haven't requested time to speak at it," Mr. Short said yesterday.

Ms. Collett also said town employees were given the opportunity to "bring any kind of gripe or complaint" to the meeting.

Mr. Warehime said the meeting was not a general gripe session. He said the council would be reviewing the performances of town department heads and hearing their reviews of town employees so merit increases can be set.

He also said individual merit raises would be discussed at the closed meeting, but that the setting of salaries for town positions would not.

"There are some adjustments that need to be made" in salaries, Mr. Warehime said. He said the water and sewer superintendent, police chief and town manager receive low salaries relative to what their counterparts are paid in nearby towns.

"And all this ties into the budget," he said, adding that the council is trying to maintain a 37-cent property tax rate.

He said the base pay for certain town positions may be kept lower if large merit increases are to be paid.

The council has scheduled a budget work session after tonight's regular council meeting.

The memo sent to employees said, "The specific purpose of this meeting is to receive comment, review, critique, suggestion, evaluation and/or other information relevant to the government of the town, from those who serve us, and whom we serve."

Also, the memo said, "The meeting is being held in Executive Session for the specific reason that it is quite possible that matters involving personnel may be mentioned and/or discussed, which would not be appropriate to do in a public session, under the Open Meeting Law applicable to the mayor and council."

Employees were asked to call Mr. Warehime or Councilman Geoffrey S. Black by 5 p.m. yesterday if they wished to speak. They were asked to give their names and the approximate length of their comments.

"You may feel free to speak frankly and candidly to the mayor and council, and without fear of any employment sanction, discipline or reprisal resulting from your remarks," the memo said.

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