Cohasset Selectmen vote down self-inflicted No Talk policy

On a motion by Selectman Martha Gjesteby, Cohasset Selectmen voted 4-1 (Selectman Steve Gaumer voting No) to rescind their self-styled policy that prohibits them from talking with town employees or department heads without first getting the permission of Acting Town Manager Mike Milansoki. Milanoski suggested the board revisit the policy after talking with Department heads at a scheduled meeting in August.

Milanoski also denied that the policy stopped selectmen from talking with town employees, they just had to go through Milanoski for records  in order that he could schedule their workloads. “I don’t want politics to interfere with their work,” Milanoski said.

Selectman Karen Quigley said the policy was one thing, but the bigger question was the perception of town employees who were of the opinion they were not allowed to talk to the selectmen. “I find it disturbing town employees feel cannot talk to selectmen. Department heads recently submitted letter asking to have a liaison from the boar of selectmen so they can talk with us.

Gaumer said he was not sure he understood the problem. “I don’t find that any of them feel restricted,” at which point he told selectmen they were only the boar of directors, not the overseers of employees.  “The policy is very clear. The workflow goes through the town manager in order that workers be protected from any political intervention.” He suggested that allowing selectmen to talk with town employees could be dangerous.

Quigley noted that any resident of the town can go into any department and get documents or ask questions. “But the selectmen have to go to the Town Manager”; she said this was inefficient an impractical, nothing that she recently was told by an employee she would have to go through the town manager in order to get an updated document.

Selectmen Diane Kennedy suggested that what Quigley experienced was an anomaly.

Quigley responded that the memo from town employees asking for a formal channel in order to be able to talk to selectmen showed there was a problem.

‘Maybe we do need to tailor that,” Kennedy responded.

Milanoski suggested that the department heads like this policy as they don’t want politics to interfere with their work. He then notified the board that meetings were being set up with department heads and the Selectman Chair and Vice Chair in order that employees could inform selectmen of what they were doing. He added that employees were in fact allowed to talk with selectmen.

Quigley said a case in point was that she asked Tracey Connors in the selectmen’s office to send her an electronic copy of the budget. “You [Milanoski) then send me an email saying that should be channeled through you. In another instance I was talking to an employee at town hall when she asked me to leave as she could not be seen talking to me.”

“That sounds like a political issue,” Milanoski said, saying that employee was only one out of 18 people who lived in fear of Milansoki.

“A lot of people feel they cannot speak freely,”Quigley retorted.

Selectman Steve Gaumer then piped in saying this was happening through a lack of any type of Human Resource structure in the town. then he added that the policy may be flawed and might deserve a second look

Quigley said she saw this as being more of a communications issue.

Selectman Martha Gjesteby moved to eliminate the policy. I voted for it initially but I think it’s unworkable. “It’s setting up the town manager as an autocrat, which he shouldn’t be. Normally our requests happen at selectmen;s meetings.  I don’t think its necessary.”

Gaumer suggested if the policy were to be eliminated its absence would create chaos.

“I find this unbelievable, Gjesteby said.

“There is one person in this room, by position and by title, who is responsible for town employees and it ain’t us.  The intent of this (policy) is to restrict a politically directed workload.”


© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed