By Chea Waters Evans, News editor
Since September of this year, town boards and committees have met and discussed personnel issues relating to Zoning Administrator Daniel Morgan and his position 13 times. These meetings included Selectboard executive sessions, including one special meeting at Selectboard member James Faulkner’s home, Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) joint meetings with the Selectboard, employment review sessions, and grievance-related sessions. Documents obtained by The Charlotte News reveal that in late September, Morgan filed a grievance against a reprimand issued by the Selectboard through his lawyer, John Franco Jr., who is an employment attorney in Burlington.
In an email, Morgan declined to comment on the matter at this time. Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow, Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair Frank Tenney, Town Administrator Dean Bloch and the remaining ZBA members Matt Zucker, Stuart Bennett, Lane Morrison and Jonathan Fisher all ignored repeated requests for comment and did not respond to questions sent via email regarding the matter.
In an Oct. 1 letter to the Selectboard, Franco requested a grievance on Morgan’s behalf relating to a written reprimand issued by the board to Morgan on Sept. 29. In the letter, he writes that the reprimand was “unlawful in several respects and must be withdrawn by the Town.” He said that the Selectboard did not follow existing Town of Charlotte Personnel Policies and that Morgan was not requested at a conference with the board and was given no opportunity to attend the conference at which the Selecboard decided to issue the reprimand, and was not given the opportunity to bring someone with him to that meeting. Those procedures are all required by law through the town’s personnel policy.
Franco further stated, “The grounds for disciplinary action must be violations of established Town policies and standards. As Mr. Morgan will set out in a separate document, there are no established standards that he is accused of violating…notice of such standards are required for there to be just cause to reprimand him.”
Morgan holds five separate positions as part of his full-time employment with the Town: Zoning Administrator, Sewage Control Officer, Public Health Officer and E-911 coordinator, as well as clerk for the ZBA. His responsibilities as Zoning Administrator, which include verifying that applications scheduled for hearings before the ZBA are complete, are his alone, however, and are not overseen by anyone in the town offices. Bloch is Morgan’s supervisor for his other duties.
Emails obtained by The Charlotte News from a public records request reveal issues between Morgan and the ZBA throughout the course of the fall since the reprimand and grievance were filed. On Oct. 1, Tenney wrote to Morgan and cc’d the board, his preferred method of Morgan communicating with staff, the ZBA and applicants. “Just trying to keep staff, the ZBA and the Applicant from getting confused, and informed,” Tenney wrote.
On Oct. 15, Zucker wrote to Morgan with tips for writing clearer reports, saying that Morgan’s work was “confusing.”
On Friday, Oct 16, Morgan wrote to the ZBA, “It has recently been brought to my attention from the Vermont Land Use Education & Training Collaborative, as well as the Vermont League of Cities and Town’s Municipal and Legal Assistance Center, that in the effort of keeping duty and authority of independent parties clear and separated, the Zoning Administrator should not write the Board’s decision to avoid an unhealthy mixing of roles.”
Tenney responded to him, “You should inform your Supervisor of this situation.”
In an Oct. 21 email from Morgan to Bloch and Town Attorney David Rugh, Morgan writes, referring to ZBA Chair Frank Tenney, “Given the Chair of the Zoning Board is also a member of the Selectboard, and has no issue reminding me that he ‘hires or fires me,’ I would request any kind of clarity you could provide. Acting in good faith. I would request that Board members do the same.”
Tenney did not respond to an inquiry as to whether or not he said this to Morgan.
On Oct. 26, the ZBA and the Selectboard held a joint public discussion to talk about the relationship between the ZBA and the Zoning Administrator.
On Oct. 27, the grievance hearing was held. On Nov. 2, a special Selectboard meeting was held to make changes to the Zoning Administrator’s job description and to address possible reorganization of planning, zoning and other related positions and boards in town. This topic was also addressed at a special meeting held Nov. 12.
The Selectboard also held a special meeting in executive session on Nov. 18 to consider the filed grievance. There is no further scheduled agenda item relating to this matter at press time.