Amidst debate, former selectman becomes interim DPW Superintendent

By Tanner Harding | Feb 06, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat

Marion — The Marion Board of Selectmen appointed former selectman Jon Henry as the interim superintendent for the Department of Public Works.

The decision was made without Selectman Steve Gonsalves, who recused himself after expressing his unhappiness with the process.

He said that when the selectmen first met about replacing retiring DPW Superintendent Rob Zora, he was told by Town Administrator Paul Dawson that he couldn’t participate because his son works for the department and it would be a conflict of interest.

Dawson said the town’s attorney agreed that Gonsalves’ involvement would violate the state’s ethics law. However, Gonsalves disagreed and reached out to the state himself. He said that he received a favorable decision, stating that because there was a supervisor between his son and the head of the department, there wouldn’t be a conflict.

Gonsalves said that even after that fact came to light, he felt left out of the process.

“Personally I’ve been frustrated, I’ve heard so much stuff on the street that my head is going to pop,” he said. “I’m sick of getting stopped and being asked ‘hey have you heard?’ I don’t expect to have to seek that information.”

The town received letters of interest from current head of the sewer division Frank Cooper and Henry, though the position was never officially advertised by the town.

“I’m making a motion that this is tabled until we have this discussion. Where was this posted? How can a decision like this be made?” Gonsalves asked.

Selectman Norm Hills insisted that nothing had been intentionally hidden from Gonsalves.

“Dialogue goes in two directions,” he said. “All you have to do is ask.”

Hills also said that he was the one who had approached Henry to submit a letter of interest.

“Great, why didn’t I know this?” Gonsalves asked. “Nobody has approached me on this. Where’s the transparency on this gentlemen?”

Select Chair Jody Dickerson spoke up to end the heated debate, as neither he or Hills had seconded Gonsalves’ motion to table the discussion.

“You made your point,” he said. “You made your motion and it did not pass.”

Gonsalves did eventually recuse himself from the discussion.

“I’m not voting on this,” he said. “I don’t want any part of this.”

Hills and Dickerson voted to accept Henry’s application for the interim position, which they estimate to last about six months.

Hills also cited Cooper as a potential candidate for the permanent position when the parameters of that are decided.

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