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October 13, 2012

Officials are split on Blais deal

West Newbury: Some oppose additional payment for ex-finance director

WEST NEWBURY — A proposed $40,000 payment to complete a $100,000 settlement with former finance director Tracy Blais is garnering mixed reaction from town leaders.

Two selectmen and one Finance Committee member are recommending voters at the Oct. 29 special town meeting approve the $40,000 request.

But the remaining five Finance Committee members oppose funding the settlement balance. And Selectman Glenn Kemper — a named defendant in the suit — has abstained from voting.

Following her meeting with selectmen on Wednesday to review the special warrant, Town Moderator Kathleen “KC” Swallow stressed that discussion on town meeting floor must stay centered on the issue of the settlement — and not turn into a debate over the charges within the lawsuit or attacks against the parties involved.

But judging by the tenor of the finance board discussion that followed the selectmen’s meeting, the moderator may find that to be a difficult goal.

According to the 12-page settlement, which is now a public document available upon request from the town clerk, Blais has agreed to dismiss a superior court civil action suit she filed last year. In exchange, the town has agreed to pay her $100,000 — $80,000 from town coffers and $20,000 from Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, the town’s insurance carrier.

A $40,000 reserve fund transfer previously approved by the Finance Committee coupled with the $20,000 from MIIA was to be paid within seven days of the signed agreement. Of that amount, Blais received $36,000 minus state and federal withholdings, with her attorneys getting $24,000.

Town meeting voters must approve the final $40,000, of which Blais would receive $24,000 and her attorneys $16,000.

However, if town meeting denies the remaining $40,000, Blais has agreed to settle for the $60,000 only.

“If the town fails to appropriate funds for the second payment, the first payment of $60,000 is deemed to be full and final settlement of any and all alleged claims,” the document states.

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