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October 29, 2012

Sandy may disrupt tonight's Special Town Meeting

WEST NEWBURY — Hurricane Sandy may throw a wrench into tonight’s Special Town Meeting.

Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles said over the weekend that a decision on whether to postpone the meeting couldn’t legally be made before 7 p.m. today — the time posted for the meeting to begin in the Town Annex at 379 Main St.

Should the storm be as severe as forecasters are predicting, Knowles said the process would be for town officials to convene at the Annex and declare a lack of quorum. They would then need to postpone the session to a specific date.

A Code Red telephone notice sent out yesterday stated that a decision on the meeting will be made by 4 p.m. The decision will be sent via Code Red. Knowles said he anticipated any new meeting date would not be scheduled until after the state election on Nov. 6.

Among the 13 articles on the special meeting warrant are a request for an additional $188,000 for the Page School renovation project, $32,022 for a new police cruiser and $40,000 for the final payment in a $100,000 settlement selectmen negotiated to resolve a lawsuit filed against the town by former Finance Director Tracy Blais.

Knowles said support by voters for the settlement article would “uphold the agreement as struck and hopefully put this sad episode behind us.” Selectmen have approved the expenditure 2 to 1, with Selectman Glenn Kemper voting no. The Finance Committee disapproved, 5 to 1. Kemper is named in the suit along with former selectmen Tom Atwood and John McGrath.

The lawsuit says that Blais, who is now the town administrator in Newbury, was defamed and discriminated against by town officials and that they failed to live up to her contract. As part of the settlement agreement, the men deny all allegations and assert that Blais’ charges “lack merit and substance.” But they “ultimately support the settlement,” saying it is “in the town’s best interests,” the agreement states.

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