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Salem selectmen try to navigate rules on performance reviews

SALEM — Selectmen are looking for some clarification in their bylaws on whether performance reviews for the town manager are required to be held in public sessions.

Selectman Michael Lyons raised the issue at this week’s board meeting and requested the board get an opinion from the town’s legal counsel in writing.

Lyons asked the board whether it needs a change made to the board’s bylaws surrounding the town manager’s performance. The bylaw states that under state law, the town manager has the right to due process and can require all meetings surrounding performance to be held in a public session.

Selectmen Stephen Campbell and Everett McBride both said they read the bylaw as meaning the board could discuss performance issues and performance reviews in a nonpublic session as long as the town manager did not request they be held in public.

“You can have it in nonpublic, but if he requests it to be in public, he has that right,” said Campbell.

Lyons asked Town Manager Keith Hickey if town legal counsel agreed with that opinion.

“When there is an issue with my performance, I can request that I be notified and if I choose to, have that done in public,” said Hickey. “If you’re compiling my annual evaluation, I can ask that that be done in public.”

Hickey said there is some flexibility as to whether the entire evaluation would have to be done in public.

“That’s what I’m looking for,” said Lyons. “But where is that opinion? That is what I have trouble with.”

Hickey said he would contact town counsel to put the opinion on performance reviews in writing and bring it back to the board at its April 14 meeting.

McBride said he agrees that the performance reviews can be held in public if the town manager requests it, but said there are some questions about where the actual performance review begins and ends.

“Is it when we are compiling information?” he asked. “Is it when I write on a sheet of paper and give it to the chairman?”

Lyons said he would also like a clearer opinion on whether the board has the right to discuss a town manager’s request for a public session while the board is in a nonpublic meeting.

“This has some holes in it that I would like clarified,” said Lyons.

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