Town Manager comes under Town Council scrutiny
The New Shoreham Town Council called a special meeting on Thursday, June 27, to consider, according to the town's published agenda, the “Town Manager [Nancy Dodge’s] performance evaluation and goal setting [and]… for the discussion of job performance.”
During the open session, First Warden Kim Gaffett explained there had been an exchange of correspondence between the council and Dodge in which she was notified of the council’s intention to hold a meeting “that may take place in open session.” Dodge responded that she wished to be present. Councilor Chris Warfel objected to Dodge’s presence, believing it would inhibit a frank exchange of ideas by councilors.
“It was my understanding that we would have a chance to discuss [the issues] first. For example, I would like to make some points and would not want to be interrupted," Warfel said.
“I try very hard to keep people from interrupting each other. I would hope we could maintain civility," Gaffett said, while also referencing the state's open meeting laws. “According to the Open Meetings Act, the employee has the right to choose whether or not to have the meeting on evaluation in closed or open session. It is solely the prerogative of the employee to decide. I think we’re all going to benefit from an open discussion.”
Rhode Island General Laws 42-46-5(a)(1) states that “discussions relating to job performance, character or physical or mental health of a person … such persons shall receive advance written notice that discussion may take place in open session.” That individual must be “advised that [he or she] may require the discussion held in open session” or may select a closed session.
After some discussion, Warfel asked for copies of previous council evaluations— important, he felt, because to new members of the council like himself these would “provide historical information.” The council then voted to go into executive session and invited Dodge to join them.
After deliberating for three hours, the council deferred further discussion to a regular meeting on Monday, July 1, according to Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick. At that time, Fitzpatrick said, the council will determine whether or not to call another closed session on the issue.