After learning of inconsistencies on time cards for Jonathan DeLaBruere, the assistant to the Duxbury Select Board, the board adopted a restrictive media policy and met behind closed doors for more than an hour Monday to discuss the situation.

Residents at the meeting raised concerns with the assistant’s time cards and the fact that in December he’d already been paid more than the $22,000 annual budget for his job, with more than six months to go in the fiscal year.

After the discussion, Bob Magee, select board chair, told board members to divert questions from the press to either David Specht, town treasurer, or Maureen Harvey, town clerk.

If news reporters had questions for board members, he told them, they should direct the reports to minutes of recordings of board meetings.

Right after 9 p.m., the board voted to move into executive session, with DeLaBruere present, to discuss a personnel matter.

Public concern

Last week, the Waterbury Record reported that various entries on DeLaBruere’s time cards didn’t match up to reality. A 13-minute phone call was logged as an hour of work, and a brief exchange of words in the town office was entered as another hour, among other inconsistencies.

Residents Jeff Poitras and David Patterson had a bone to pick with the assistant’s time cards as well. Poitras apparently spent some time digging through documents, and questioned whether classes DeLaBruere took had been approved by the select board. He found the select board approved two classes, but saw the assistant attended six.

“He can’t just take it on himself to go to six classes,” Poitras said. "He doesn’t work for himself; he works for the board.”

No one seemed to know if his classes were approved or not.

Then Poitras asked about his pay.

“Right now he’s $3,000 over his budget line,” said Mari Pratt, select board vice chair.

“Before the end of the year, we’ll have $12,000 coming back to my line item,” DeLaBruere said. His pay was a constant topic of discussion in all of Duxbury’s budget meetings in December. The time he spends working on federal grant projects is partially reimbursed once the project is finished. Previously, he predicted $7,000 of his pay would be reimbursed this year.

Patterson said he was at the meeting for that reason specifically.

“Why were you going over, and why didn’t you tell the board if you’re going over?” Patterson asked.

The board members said they were aware that DeLaBruere was working more hours than budgeted, but allowed it because the money saved by grant-driven work outweighs the cost.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that the board knew, but it sounds like they just let it continue to go,” Patterson said.

“Based on what you hear, the taxes are going to really go up,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life, born and raised here. Do I want to move? Not really.”

Media matters

The next order of business was approving the minutes of the previous meeting, and Pratt took issue with a portion of the select board assistant report that said the select board chair should be the only person taking questions from news reporters.

They agreed, and changed the minutes to say reporters should not contact the select board assistant. Magee said they would talk about the issue later.

When that time came, Magee suggested the select board refuse to answer questions from the press.

“I’ve been ducking everybody lately just because of what the newspaper said,” Magee said. He suggested the board direct financial questions to the treasurer, governmental questions to the clerk and, “as far as the select board, to me, it should be based on the audio and the minutes we take at the select board meeting.”

Patterson asked why this was a topic of discussion. “Something had to have triggered this,” he said.

“This has been going on for a while,” Magee said. “People like to have stuff in the newspaper. People want to know what’s going on, but in some cases we have to be really sure what we’re talking about.”

“From the few meetings I know in the past, this is not a normal conversation,” Patterson said, “from what I’m used to hearing.”

“I don’t think we want to stonewall the press all the time, but this specific situation, with the time sheets, I’m not sure if that should be public information. It’s bordering on a personnel matter,” said select board member Jerry McMahan.

At the tail end of the meeting, at 9:06 p.m., Pratt called for an executive session to discuss personnel matters. DeLaBruere left at 10 p.m. and the board stayed in session till 10:18 p.m.

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