By the slimmest of margins, the Charlotte Selectboard voted to send a letter to the Vermont Dept. of Labor in response to Town Clerk/Treasurer Mary Mead’s salary grievance.
The board voted 3 to 2 to forward the amended letter for review to town attorney Joe McLean and then send it to the Vermont Dept. of Labor. Selectboard members Lane Morrison, Matt Krasnow and Fritz Tegatz supported the motion, while fellow board members Carrie Spear and Jacob Spell opposed the measure.
Both Spear and Spell have indicated that they feel mistakes have occurred during the process when Mead requested adjustments to her salary.
Addressing board members and July 14 meeting attendees, Morrison said he received a letter last Tuesday from Vermont Dept. of Labor Attorney Michael Hoyt, seeking additional information on Mead’s complaint. Mead attended a portion of last week’s meeting, but left about midway through the Selectboard’s discussion on the grievance.
Morrison and other Selectboard members saw and read Hoyt’s letter and Morrison’s response. At Spell’s suggestion, Morrison read aloud the department’s letter. Spell attended the Selectboard’s regular meeting through a conference call. Hoyt said the office is seeking clarification and more information from the Selectboard on Mead’s scheduled work hours.
Mead said the board increased her work hours from 35 to 40 per week. She is seeking $15,077 in back pay. Mead based this figure on time the Selectboard used for her hours worked when they contrasted her salary with that of other town employees. Reading from the 2002 Vermont state handbook regarding town treasurers, Morrison noted in his response letter to Hoyt that “selectboards have no authority to mandate hours [worked] by or how town treasurers do [their] jobs.”
Morrison then went on to outline additional history regarding Mead’s salary issues. In June 2014, documentation from the town went to Mead, affirming her $62,916 salary confirmed by local voters during the 2014 annual March Meeting. At the same time, Mead received written communication of a 1½ percent increase given to all Charlotte town employees and acknowledging Mead’s rate of pay for the start of the new fiscal year, which began July 1, 2014.
Morrison’s letter described the documentation as an “administrative adjustment.” He also noted that Mead’s designation as a 40-hour-a-week worker was included in a computer program, with intent to recognize employee benefits for vacation, holiday, and sick time.
“The change was essentially meaningless since she’s a salaried employee,” Morrison noted in his draft. “Leave time is not calculated on hours per worked for salary employees. She is [a] salary [worker], and earns the same pay [regardless of] the hours worked.”
Responding to the arguments outlined in Morrison’s letter, Spear asked why Mead’s job description didn’t include town clerk and only focused on that of Charlotte’s treasurer. “It’s a single job; it’s the clerk/treasurer. We haven’t been talking about the treasurer, we’ve been talking about the clerk,” said Spear, noting the two positions have different responsibilities.
Spell agreed with Spear’s assessment. “We have to send this back to the Dept. of Labor,” Spell said. “It has to be consistent across the board.”
Spear also inquired about the amount of money the town spent on communication with an attorney regarding the Mead pay issue. The amount is estimated to be around $500.
Later in the discussion, Krasnow made reference to a state handbook on town clerks. The town’s revised letter sent to Hoyt used information found in both the clerks’ and treasurers’ guidebooks.
“I just hope this works out one way or another so we can move forward with other business in the town,” said Spell. “We’re dealing with the Vermont Dept. of Labor and their counsel. It’s in our best interest to make sure we’ve vetted it properly before it goes out.”
Spell also expressed regret the matter has been unresolved for years, calling on board members to govern with authority.
Charlotte Town Administrator Dean Bloch said McLean reviewed the board’s edits made to the letter, approving them. The document was mailed to Hoyt on Friday, Bloch said.