SHIRLEY -- There was nothing wrong with the executive session that selectmen held last Friday morning, during which Chief Administrative Officer David Berry resigned, nor with the way the board handled the situation, Chairman David Swain said Monday night.
Citing a "difficult time" due to the CAO position, Swain defended the "public vote" the board took at a meeting in early January to Berry, who was "publicly hired" and had a contract whose terms the selectmen followed "to the letter," he said.
Thus, the board, based on that vote, requested Berry's resignation and stated that if he did not resign he would be fired for just cause, he said.
Having notified Berry as required, selectmen waited the designated period of time before proceeding, Swain continued.
Berry was then notified by certified letter of the charges against him, which selectmen believed to be "just cause" for firing him. The letter also informed Berry of his right to be present at the executive session when the decision was made.
The session took place Friday morning, Feb. 22, and Berry, who had been out of the office and on paid administrative leave, was there.
Disputing a newspaper article that ran over the weekend, Swain said the reporter who stated the board did not convene in open session last Friday morning before retiring into executive session "got it wrong."
The article said the board didn't go into executive session properly, "but that was not correct," Selectman Kendra Dumont said. She also took exception to a recent editorial in the Shirley Oracle that faulted the board for its handling of the CAO situation.
She and Swain both maintained that selectmen acted by the book, all the way.
As for the executive session in question, it proceeded from a special open session on Friday, Feb. 22, at 8 a.m. And that meeting was duly posted 48 hours in advance, as required by the state's open meeting law.
Asked after Monday night's meeting to trace the chronology of events last Friday morning, Swain said the board convened briefly before going into executive session "with our attorney" to discuss property sale negotiations. The board then "recessed out" of executive session, re-convened in open session and met briefly with the Energy Committee.
At about 10 a.m., the board voted to go back into executive session, Swain said, this time to meet with Berry and Town Counsel Gary Brackett. The session lasted about an hour, after which the board re-convened in open session, only to adjourn.
When all was said and done, Berry had resigned. Faced with selectmen's charges, he decided to submit his resignation, Swain said. The board accepted it.
Berry's last paid day, which includes accrued vacation time, will be March 31.
Asked if the board plans to advertise to fill the position, Swain said that decision -- including what form the new job description might take -- would be made after the April 30 town election. Once a new board is seated, the matter will be taken up again, he said.