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Auburn town administrator under fire

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 17. 2014 2:17PM

AUBURN - A move to fire Town Administrator William Herman was thwarted Thursday morning after residents filled a meeting room at town hall to voice their opposition, and a selectman later rescinded his motion to fire him.

Instead, Selectman Russell Sullivan instructed Herman to contact Primex, the town's insurer, to bring in a professional to hold a meeting of all town employees as a way to fix communications among all departments.

Selectman Richard Eaton, who made the motion to fire Herman, jokingly told one resident he could be the chairman of the "mending" committee.

Eaton declined to say why he wanted Herman terminated. He made the motion at a closed-door Monday night meeting. The motion was tabled and revisited at yesterday's hastily called meeting.

Sullivan scheduled that session to have a discussion with David Dion, chairman of the Police Commission, about an anonymous email dated April 14 that alleged Dion pulled out a gun during an argument on April 5 at the Aloha in Manchester. The email was sent to Herman who brought it to selectmen's attention.

Sullivan said he requested Dion be notified and asked to come to Thursday's meeting to talk to them about it because if the allegations turned out to be true, selectmen would have to take steps to remove him from the police commission.

The email, however, was turned over to police who determined the allegations were false.

Sullivan said Eaton's motion to fire Herman had nothing to do with the email. (See related story.)

About two dozen residents, which included some town employees, clearly supported Herman, with one man calling him the only good person in authority in the town. They pressed selectmen to say what it was that Herman did for them to consider firing him.

"Sometime there needs to be change," Eaton said.

He said he was willing to rescind his motion if residents and employees were willing to get past all the investigations and complaints and work together.

It has been a tumultuous couple of years for the town, with police at odds with the road agent and, at times, the selectmen. The actions have resulted in lawsuits and investigations, and police continue to look into allegations that solid waste was illegally buried at the town's closed landfill and that gravel was allegedly illegally removed from a landowner's property by a subcontractor working for the road agent.

Now, police have opened another investigation after Dion filed a criminal defamation complaint over the email alleging he pulled out a gun at a Manchester restaurant.

As town administrator, Herman is employed at the will of the three selectmen. However, were he to be terminated without just cause, Herman would be entitled to six months pay and accrued time, which amounts to another 2 to 2 1/2 months of pay.

Herman, after the meeting, said he recognizes he serves at the selectmen's pleasure.

"It's part of the job," Herman said when asked what he thought of being instructed to call Primex (Herman is a member of the Primex board of trustees) to have a facilitator brought in to help the town's departments and employees get along better.

He said it was "very gratifying" to have residents turn out on his behalf.

"I don't know who made an effort to get these folks to come here," he said. "It was not myself. It's certainly gratifying to see that happen."

Eaton said only time will tell if communications will get better among departments. "I'm willing to take the flak for it," he said of his motion. "My goal is to bring the town back together again."

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