AYER -- On July 16, the Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 to censure Ayer Treasurer Stephanie Gintner. The majority agreed that, based on the circumstantial evidence on hand, that it was "more probable than not" that Gintner violated the town's email policy.
The selectmen do not have oversight over the separately-elected treasurer. Nonetheless, Chairman James M. Fay, selectmen Christopher R. Hillman and Gary L. Luca all signed their names to a July 30 letter to Gintner, memorializing their July 16 censure vote. Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand delivered the signed document to Gintner on Aug. 1.
But the two dissenting selectmen did not quietly sign off on the letter.
Vice Chairman Frank F. Maxant signed but also wrote above his signature "This is a bogus meaningless politically-driven sham."
Maxant said he signed despite advice provided him years prior by town counsel Kopelman and Paige. Maxant said the town attorney advised him to leave the signature line blank on the 2003 Consent Decree signed by the then-sitting selectmen in an agreement reached between the town and Pan Am Railway.
Maxant said he appealed to his peers at that time not to sign the document, which Maxant said left the town powerless to defend its primary Spectacle Pond drinking water district against the company's multi-phase rail yard off Willow Road.
Likewise, Maxant said Kopelman and Paige coached the board on censuring Gintner. The board voted 3-2 to approve
"I said 'Look, this is politically driven," said Maxant. As a result, Maxant said he decided to use "the highest degree of scrutiny" during the selectmen's censure process.
Maxant said he signed his name, but added the extra commentary, "to make sure my statement was well known."
Clerk Pauline Conley wrote under her signature "I do not agree with this censure." Conley explained on Monday, "I was going to simply write 'not signing" but changed course to ensure there was no misinterpreting her availability to sign the censure letter. Otherwise, Conley said she's not aware of any policy that required all selectmen to sign off on the censure letter, stating the selectmen are sometimes all required to sign some contracts and applications that come before the board.
Conley alerted Nashoba Publishing to an Aug. 1 email circulated by Hillman criticizing her and Maxant for the additional remarks penned on the face of the censure letter. Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand provided the email on request.
"Your commentary above your signatures, is embarrassing!" wrote Hillman to the board. "You had your forum to tell everyone how you felt. Disgraceful!!"
"Almost as bad as telling your friend/ town reporter anything in an effort to undermine your colleagues," wrote Hillman. "More to come on that!!!"
On Monday, Pontbriand copied the entire board on Nashoba Publishing's request for the email. Within hours, Hillman responded with his own record request.
"Is there ever a story, from the Public Spirit that doesn't have Pauline [Conley] involved?" wrote Hillman. "I would like to request to see all emails between Mary Arata and Pauline Conley dating back the last year Ms. Conley has been in office." Conley was elected to office on April 25, 2011.
The selectmen's July 30 censure letter to Gintner states:
"On July 16, 2012, having reviewed all the evidence supplied by the witnesses; the witness interviews; all the evidence presented at the various executive and open sessions of the Board of Selectmen; and upon review of the findings of fact presented on July 16, 2012 in Open Session all pertaining to the formal complaints brought against you by Ms. Melisa Doig, Assistant Treasurer, and Ms. Lisa Gabree, Town Accountant/Finance Manager, the Ayer Board of Selectmen voted (3-2) and found that the Town Treasurer, Ms. M. Stephanie Gintner violated the Town of Ayer's E-mail Policy dated September 21, 1999."
"The Ayer Board of Selectmen hereby censures you for that action and requests that the Town Treasurer comply with all of the Town's Personnel Policies (including the 2012 Electronic Communication Policy) in the future."
Gintner's attorney, David Gelb, responded to Nashoba Publishing's request for comment about the censure vote and letter on Tuesday by copying the newspaper on his Aug. 8 appeal filed with the Ayer Board of Selectmen (see separate story on page 2).