Rockingham Selectboard names new library trustee

Ray Massucco, former longtime library board member, fills unexpired term

BELLOWS FALLS — Monday night's meeting of the Rockingham Free Public Library Trustees saw a new face at the table - local attorney and former trustee Ray Massucco - who was named by the Rockingham Selectboard to the library board instead of the trustees' own nominee.

The trustees met July 22 and considered two possible nominees to replace Steve Fuller, who stepped down earlier this summer: Tim Doherty, husband of assistant Town Clerk Brenda Doherty, and Massucco.

The library trustees decided to put forth Doherty's name to the Selectboard, which voted 3–1 on Aug. 6 in favor of Massucco, with one abstention. Selectboard chair Thom MacPhee was absent from that meeting.

When asked at Monday night's trustees meeting by a member of the public where the information had come from that Massucco had removed his name from the list, Trustee Pat Fowler said it was the way she had interpreted an email from him.

Fowler said that it might have been her misinterpretation of an email that she shared with the board from Massucco.

“For the record, I never withdrew anything,” Massucco told the board on Monday.

“Well, that was the way we interpreted it,” Fowler replied.

Selectboard appoints Massucco

Wright told the Rockingham Selectboard at its Aug. 6 meeting that the trustees “had met to discuss the two individuals and felt that Mr. Massucco had a definite conflict of interest with library personnel.”

She further told the Selectboard that Massucco “had some conflicts and did have attorney conversations with [library director Célina] Houlné and had told the chair that he cannot discuss anything with her because of these discussions.”

Wright said that indicated to them a conflict of interest. Wright also noted that Massucco works with SEVCA and its executive director, Steve Geller.

Geller is the significant other of Houlné, which the board considered a relationship that could lead to conflicts of interest.

Wright said the trustees wanted to appoint someone who “did not have an agenda.” Wright noted that Doherty had attended meetings and felt he would be a “clean plate.”

DiBernardo noted that Doherty has been on two boards and has resigned both times.

DiBernardo told Wright that Massucco had been a former library trustee and “has multiple years of experience on the library board” and said she didn't understand why Massucco was not their first choice.

Wright replied that after the decision was made by the trustees to recommend Doherty for the position, Massucco had sent the email indicating that he no longer had the time to do the job and was no longer interested in the position.

Golec disagreed, saying he had received an email but that it did not state that he was no longer interested.

In a July 6 email to the RFPL chair, Massucco told Mitchell-Love, “This is to confirm that I am interested in filling the board seat vacated by Steve Fuller.”

Trustee Hope Brissette and her husband, Joe Brissette, asked the Selectboard members why they did not honor the board's choice of Doherty, as was “tradition” to do, but the board offered no response.

Public records

Trustees defeated a motion proposed by Chair Jan Mitchell-Love and seconded by Brissette to revise the by-laws on “handling public information requests and board notification.”

The chair suggested that a revision require Houlné, who is already complying with corrective action plan requirements from the trustees' personnel committee (though this action has not been approved by the full board), to have any public records requests “of interest” to the board forwarded to them.

The chair said the reasoning behind this was so trustees are not “blindsided” by “information the public has but that the Trustees are unaware of.”

She said she was referring to a June 11 bill totaling $3,150 for “trustee issues” from attorney Stephen Ankuda to the town. The bill was discussed at the July 22 meeting.

Massucco noted that this invoice had been submitted to the town in early June and was available to anyone interested at town hall as a public document.

Massucco also explained to the board that there is no implied obligation to inform anyone of public document requests. He noted that thousands of documents are in the public domain and said that the board would need to be more specific about what is “of interest” to them.

State librarian 'dismayed'

The board postponed discussion about whether to meet with State Librarian Martha Reid, who has offered to meet with the full board to see what her department could do to help.

Reid had responded to conversations with board members Wright and Carolyn Friese, as well as conversations with library staff, the attorney general's office, newspaper articles, and reports from Amy Howlett, a consultant with the state Department of Libraries.

In her Aug. 6 letter, Reid wrote, “I am dismayed by many of these reports and am concerned about how the current atmosphere and some recent actions of the Board affect your work and that of the library staff, as well as affecting the local community and library services of the public.”

She continued, “I know that recent Board conduct has caused division in your community and has brought significant stress to library employees and trustees alike.”

She wrote that she would appreciate an opportunity to meet with the board.

Friese said that she would like to have this discussion put on the agenda for the next meeting as she felt the board should make a decision soon as to whether they would invite Reid to meet with them.

Open-meeting law investigation

At press time, state Assistant Attorney General William Reynolds confirmed that an investigation into open-meeting violations by the RFPL Board of Trustees “is ongoing, and awaiting my response.”

Reynolds said that a colleague broke her arm so he is responsible for her caseload as well as for his own. He said that he has no idea when his response will be forthcoming.

At Monday's meeting, Mitchell-Love objected to the use of the word “investigation,” noting that it cast the board and its efforts in a bad light.

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