Selectman Steve Gaumer would like to stop any criticism of town employees at a public session. Gaumer said any commentary any board member has in regard to an employee be held and be discussed in executive session at the request of the employee, giving the employee 48 hours notice. “If (the criticism) it constitutes a review of performance, it crosses the line.”
Select Chair Fred Koed said the board would take it under consideration.
Gaumer should be made aware that Selectmen have the same rights and are considered “employees” under the law. Selectmen can’t pull other Selectmen into unannounced executive sessions and threaten them with censorship or removal. Selectmen, who are not senators, have no ability to censor anything. Nor should they ask fellow selectmen to resign, when they have no power to remove anybody.
Also, Gaumer should be advised that when the board reserves a period of time for public comment within its meeting, it creates a forum for speech, and those seeking to speak have constitutional protection for their freedom of speech. Restrictions on speech in traditional and designated public fora survive only if they are naturally drawn to achieve a compelling state interest. And even then, the state’s interest may intrude upon an individual’s constitutional rights.
Accordingly, if a selectman during the selectmen’s public comment period critiques a town employee’s handling of a certain matter, and does not give the town employee 48 hrs. notice to go into executive session, then perhaps the sectman does not feel the criticism rises to that level. In any case, the town official is protected because he or she has protection within the forum for speech.
One thing’s for sure. Selectmen should not be writing about their colleagues on their Facebook pages. Everybody reads those pages.
© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed