NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 13, 2012

Officials are split on Blais deal

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

(Continued)

But Selectman Dick Cushing, who along with Kemper and Town Counsel Michael McCarron attended the Finance Committee’s discussion, said, “It’s more than a moral obligation.” If the town votes against what was negotiated in good faith, it could make any other plaintiffs more likely to “play hardball” when selectmen attempt to keep future suits out of court, he said.

Cushing said Uniejewski and the others are privy to only a “small fraction of what 12 lawyers during more than 32 executive sessions were throwing at us.” Going to court would have been “a wrenching affair” for the town, resulting in the likely disposition of many employees and residents and the delving into some very difficult charges, he said. A “take the money and run” attitude now serves the town very poorly in the long run, he added.

Earlier in the evening, Cushing criticized Kemper’s unwillingness to support the warrant article, saying, “The town is going through hard times right now and your abstention is not going to help.” Cushing and Knowles have both been strong supporters of Blais throughout the process.

Kemper would not change his vote, but did say he will be happy when the town has the issue behind it. Despite being named in the lawsuit, Kemper chose not to recuse himself from the selectmen’s discussion and vote on Wednesday, having previously done so “when necessary” at other meetings over the course of the last 1 1/2 years.

The Daily News has requested the minutes of all executive session discussions on the lawsuit and settlement. But according to town counsel, the minutes must first be officially released by selectmen and then redacted of any information that is not public.

Funding for the Blais settlement is the last of 13 warrant articles on the Oct. 29 special town meeting warrant. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Town Annex, 379 Main St. A quorum of 40 is needed, with 90 voters required for votes on funding articles of $20,000 or more.

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