Shaw Israel Izikson, Reporter
At the Selectboard’s meeting on Monday, Nov. 8, the board unanimously ratified a previous decision concerning employee salaries at the Charlotte Library.
Back at their meeting on Oct.18, the board approved the salaries of three library employees: the Library Director’s annual salary for $75,950, the Youth Services/Assistant Director at $30.94 an hour, and the Tech Librarian/Assistant Director at $30.94 an hour.
The salaries are effective retroactively to July 1.
At the Oct. 18 meeting, Selectboard member Louise McCarren said the reason for the board approving the motion for the salaries was because the board of the Charlotte Library did not feel that the salaries were “properly placed.”
At the Nov. 8 meeting, Chairman James Faulkner made the motion to ratify the salary increases because “it kind of clarifies what the motion was before.”
Like the motion for the salary increase at the Oct. 18 meeting, Faulkner’s motion was not listed on the town’s website for the Nov. 8 meeting.
Faulkner’s motion was seconded by Selectboard member Lewis Mudge, and it led to a terse back and forth discussion between McCarren and Town Clerk and Treasurer Mary Mead.
“Can you tell us what error was corrected?” Mead asked.
McCarren said that “the town has outsourced this to [Gallagher, Flynn & Company] and Jim has provided that information.”
Gallagher, Flynn & Company LLP of South Burlington was hired by the town as an HR consultant, with company employee Dan Lyons working for the town.
“But he has not provided that information,” Mead told McCarren.
“Well, it’s there,” McCarren said.
“Well, what is it?” Mead asked McCarren.
“We have outsourced this,” McCarren said. “I am not doing this.”
Mead proceeded to criticize the board for its handling of the salary increases of the library employees.
“After reviews of employee positions, job descriptions, etc., Gallagher and Flynn makes the recommendation to the Selectboard, which the board could agree to or make their adjustments,” Mead said. “At the point where the Selectboard is in agreement with the revised rates for all employees, the employees were promised and expected paperwork showing how and where their position had been placed, and the criteria that had been used to come to that pay rate. That communication never happened.”
Mead said that, in late August, new pay rates were assigned to all employees retroactive to July 1.
“Then, unexpectedly, certain library positions had to be revisited,” she said. “The library’s board of trustees had many conversations with Gallagher and Flynn to the point where they prepared their detailed analysis of the library director, youth librarian and technical librarian positions. Presented to Gallagher and Flynn were requested rate increases for those three positions. The Selectboard said Gallagher and Flynn had made a mistake, and it had to be corrected for those three employees. At the time, it was said to have been a tenure mistake, although no one could explain the mistake.”
Mead asked the board if there were similar mistakes with other town employees.
“That did not seem to be a consideration,” she said. “For example, Dean [Bloch, Town Administrator] and I have 24 and 28 years of tenure. Somehow, all three library positions are ranked higher, with much less tenure. Maybe the reason no one could explain the so-called mistake was because there wasn’t a mistake.
“I’ve listened to a lot of meetings on Zoom, and after the fact, and there was a constant reference by the library to the Selectboard about the Supreme Court case of the Town of Hartford versus the Hartford Library, basically telling the Selectboard that trustees were in charge of pay rates and salaries for their employees, not the Selectboard.”
Mead said that, while there is a “desperate need” for a market adjustment for all employees, she was hopeful that hiring an outside consultant “might help the Selectboard make good changes and create more equity for all jobs.”
“Unfortunately, applying special treatment to some employees has created more inequity than has ever existed,” Mead said.
Chairman Faulkner thanked Mead for her comments, and the board proceeded to unanimously pass Faulkner’s motion.
Municipal employees issue concerns over raises for library employees
At their meeting on Monday, Nov. 8, the Selectboard reviewed a letter of concern co-signed by six municipal employees regarding the board approving raises for three library employees.
The board voted unanimously on Oct. 18 to approve the raises for the library director, the youth services/assistant director, and the tech librarian/assistant director.
At the Nov. 8 meeting, the board voted to ratify their previous decision (see above story).
On October 25, six town employees co-signed a letter stating their concerns about the salary approvals for the library employees.
The letter was co-signed by Town Clerk and Treasurer Mary Mead, Assistant Town Clerk and Treasurer Sayuri “Sy” Koerner, Recreation Director Nicole Conley, Zoning Administrator and Health Officer Wendy Pelletier, Town Planner Larry Lewack, and Town Assessor John Kerr.
The six employees wrote that, originally, the Selectboard finalized pay rates for all town employees at an Aug. 23 meeting, which was made retroactive to July 1.
“With the Aug. 23 adjustment, the average increase for the Town Hall and Senior Center employees was 7.5 percent,” the six employees wrote in the letter. “The average percentage increase for the library employees [at the Aug. 23 meeting] was about 14 percent, almost double. After the second adjustment [at the Oct. 18 meeting] for the librarian, technical librarian, and youth librarian was approved, the total percentage increase in their salaries was 24 percent for the librarian, 46 percent for the technical librarian, and 48 percent for the youth librarian. These adjustments seem to be out of line with those received by other employees being employed by the town.”
The six employees requested that “in light of the changes that were made to accommodate the library employees, it seems appropriate that the same principles be applied to the rest of the employees where applicable. It seems reasonable to conduct a meeting that includes Dan Lyons from Gallagher and Flynn to ensure that the compensation rates across all town positions have been developed taking into consideration all factors, including tenure.”
Previously, Gallagher, Flynn & Company LLP of South Burlington was hired by the town to be its HR consultant, with company employee Dan Lyons working for the town.
“These are legitimate concerns,” Chairman James Faulkner said at the Nov. 8 meeting in response to the letter. “They felt that maybe the library had special treatment, and it certainly gave the impression of that.”
Faulkner said that on the morning of Nov. 8, before the meeting, he and Selectboard member Louise McCarren met with two of the six employees who signed the letter, but he did not name the employees.
“We tried to come up with a way to solve this possible inequity that existed,” Faulkner said. “My suggestion is that we send [the salary rates] back to Gallagher and Flynn and have them look at them all over again.”
McCarren proceeded to make a motion for the company to review the salaries.
“I am very disappointed that our efforts to outsource and allow all employees to access an independent review has failed,” McCarren said.
“You have to understand that, with this review, Gallagher and Flynn may not make any changes at all,” Faulkner said. “But at least we will know that everyone has been treated fairly.”
“Taking this down to Dan is very well going to result in no change,” Selectboard member Lewis Mudge said. “So, we owe it to the employees to be straight about that.”
“We received a letter from a group of employees, and I think the Selectboard has been very consistent in saying that we are not qualified HR professionals,” Selectboard member Matt Krasnow said. “We went to the premiere HR agency and have had a very equitable compensation market analysis for all the town employees.”
Mudge said that Lyons “was very clear” that he made a mistake on his salary analysis of the library employees in question.
“Dan said, ‘I made a mistake’ when we all got together,” Mudge said. “We all agreed a mistake was made.”
However, Koerner, who was in the audience, contradicted Mudge and told the Selectboard that Lyons told her that no mistakes were made.
“In talking with Dan, I asked him outright if he had made a mistake,” Koerner said. “With him as my HR representative, he said no, he didn’t make a mistake.”
“Let me get this straight,” Faulkner told Koerner. “You asked Dan if he made a mistake, and he said he didn’t?”
“Yes, he said he wouldn’t consider it a mistake,” Koerner said in response.
“Well, that doesn’t help much,” Faulkner said. “I have been led [to believe] that there was a mistake made and they had to go back.”
Eventually, McCarren chose to withdraw her motion because Koerner told her that Lyons had already reviewed the salaries.
Faulkner then read into the record a letter from Lyons, and said that “the Town Administrator [Dean Bloch] didn’t put it in the packet because the Selectboard had not reviewed it yet.”
As of Tuesday, Nov. 9, the letter from Lyons was still not on the town’s website.
According to Faulkner, in the letter, Lyons wrote that he reviewed each town employee’s salary and made a recommendation for a six percent increase for the town’s planning and zoning assistant’s salary.
Mudge made a motion to increase the salary of the planning and zoning assistant to $21 an hour retroactive to this August.
The motion was seconded by Faulkner and was approved unanimously by the board.