NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 4, 2013

Town manager search to begin in Seabrook

Selectman calls for more transparency in decision-making

SEABROOK — Claiming the town needs to significantly improve its level of “transparency” in government, a selectman last week apologized for past mistakes and vowed to do better.

During a meeting Friday to discuss the selection of the next town manager, Selectman Aboul Khan admitted that on a scale of one (low) to 100 (high), Seabrook’s level of transparency sits at “about a 20.”

“We hide behind things all the time,” Khan said.

The comment came after selectman candidate Eric Small questioned the board on whether it had ever discussed picking the next town manager in non-public session. Interim Town Manager Joe Titone announced last week he is not interested in the position permanently and wants to return to serving the town exclusively as its emergency management director.

Although Selectman Brendan Kelly denied Small’s assertion, Khan admitted it had happened and Selectman Ed Hess eventually agreed.

Hess said the issue of hiring a new manager had been discussed casually with Titone, perhaps at the end of closed, or executive, sessions. But no votes were taken or decisions made, Hess said.

During Friday’s at times heated meeting, Khan acknowledged having made mistakes in violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law, but vowed to correct his behavior in the future.

Khan blamed slip-ups on the fact that selectmen all have desks in the same room, where they gather and catch up on town business and written correspondence. That arrangement has resulted in “chance meetings” and the line being crossed, Khan said.

Both Kelly, who is running for re-election, and Hess took issue with Khan’s evaluation of the degree of secret discussions among them.

“I’ve tried to accommodate others and I know we don’t always see things the same way,” Kelly said after the meeting. “In the past, I’ve ignored things, because none of us are perfect. But I’m not the problem. I’m very open. Have I ever made a mistake? Absolutely, I’m made a lot of them, but I’ve never woken up and felt I have betrayed the people of this town.”

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