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Hooksett council votes to hire a project coordinator

After several months of contentious debate, the Town Council has voted to allow the town administrator to fill the position of project coordinator.

The position was originally approved in October. Shankle offered the job to an applicant.

But the initial plan to pay for the post by laying off the town's administrative assistant met stiff resistance from some on the council. The council tabled the hiring at the Dec. 12 meeting.

Now, however, with the resignation of an employee in the assessing department, Shankle has the ability to move employees in such a way as to make the layoff unnecessary.

"I will not need to lay anybody off," Shankle said. "I can fill the position that you approved at the October meeting without adding any other personnel or costs to the town."

The project coordinator will assist Shankle in the planning and implementation of his work, and can serve as acting town administrator.

On hearing the news that the layoff was no longer necessary, Councilor Vincent Lembo made the motion to allow Shankle to move forward with the reorganization plan and hire the project coordinator. At the Dec. 12 meeting, Lembo had been a vocal opponent of the layoff, remarking that Shankle was acting "vindictively" against the administrative assistant after she allegedly "spoke up" against his reorganization plan.

Lembo's comments prompted Hooksett residents David Pearl and Marc Miville to submit formal complaints to the council, accusing him of violating a state law, RSA 98:a, which prevents a government body from discussing in public "matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting," and a council policy which prevents councilors from engaging in "personalities."

In response to the complaints, the council voted Wednesday to direct Council Chairman Jim Sullivan to draft and issue a letter of reprimand to Lembo, though the town's legal counsel noted that Shankle is technically "a member of the public body," and exempt from the law's protection.

The letter will also include references to the council's code of conduct, a section in the town's charter which precludes a council member from advocating for or against a specific employee in a personnel matter, and will urge Lembo to issue Shankle an apology.

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