Vergennes city officials evaluate grievance against town manager, clerk

VERGENNES — It remains uncertain exactly how new Vergennes Mayor Renny Perry and the city council will handle a citizen complaint against City Clerk Joan Devine and City Manager Mel Hawley, but Perry said the matter could be settled privately among the parties or behind closed doors at a city council meeting.
Perry outlined several options in a recent interview, the first of which would be a direct meeting with downtown business owner Shannon Mahoney.
Mahoney complained in writing about, among other issues, both employees for their “disrespectful and inappropriate behavior,” and criticized Devine for giving out “incorrect and misleading information” to another business owner about Mahoney’s volunteer work to coordinate the city’s holiday lights on the city green.
“I’ll probably be following up with Shannon sometime next week with what I’m thinking the possible resolution might be,” Perry said on Feb 9. “If we don’t come to some sort of agreement that’s OK with her, I guess this really has to go onto the agenda at the next meeting probably.”
Recently resigned Mayor Michael Daniels had said, “Any discussion on the issue will be done in an open meeting,” although consequences would be discussed in executive session.
Perry said the other council members could insist on that approach, but he would prefer it be dealt with otherwise.  
“As I said before, if there is some way we can reach a meeting of the minds without going in the public arena with it, then that would be good,” Perry said.
If the council does deal with the complaint Perry said he would prefer it be among its members out of the public eye, either immediately at an upcoming meeting or during Devine’s and Hawley’s annual performance reviews, where he said the complaint could have a negative impact.
Perry acknowledged residents and the complainant would not know the direct outcome of the complaint with this approach.
“The end result of the performance evaluation really is a personnel matter, and not normally is it a publically disclosed thing. So my guess is that unless the council tells me otherwise that we would just say it was dealt with in the context of the performance evaluation and have the effect that’s in the evaluation and have an effect on what we do with them on raises or whatever,” Perry said, adding, “Part of the performance evaluation, really, is Joan and Mel, how do they deal with the public?”
The council could choose to have a public session before a personnel evaluation, whether it is a formal annual review or not, but Perry said Mahoney already has provided her side of the story through her written complaint and through meeting with council members who have met with her since it was filed.
“She made her input by filing the complaint. There are council members who have talked to her, so there’s additional information, and we will go on the information we have,” he said.
Still, Perry said he would consider giving Mahoney a chance to “make additional comments if there is something she wants us to know that we don’t know.”
Mahoney in a Feb. 16 email to the Independent wrote she was now satisfied with the council’s efforts to resolve the matter:
“Though the complaint was originally mishandled, I have been assured by the city council that it will be handled correctly moving forward. I respect the new process that has been put in place by the city council and I trust the city council to handle the situation to the best of their ability.”

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