By Mike Gaffney | WickedLocal
Scott Crabtree is out as Saugus town manager.
The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 last Wednesday to adopt with good cause a final resolution for the removal of Crabtree as town manager. Selectman Debra Panetta cast the lone vote against the motion.
Crabtree had requested a public hearing in the wake of the board’s 4-1 vote Sept. 15 to support a preliminary resolution for his removal and to suspend him from his duties. But the afternoon of Oct. 29 Crabtree’s attorney Andrew Gambaccini wrote in a letter to the selectmen that he was withdrawing his request for a public hearing because “the hearing contemplated would be nothing more than a farce where the result is predetermined.”
In the letter Gambaccini outlined that Crabtree vehemently denies the content of the nine allegations Selectmen Chairman Ellen Faiella levied against him as just cause for his removal. He contended that Crabtree desires a fair process to clear his good name.
“Based upon my review of the record, including this board’s Sept. 15, 2014 meeting, it is obvious to me, and I suspect obvious to the residents of the town, that such a fair process in an impartial venue will not take place before this board,” Gambaccini wrote.
Looking out at a packed Town Hall auditorium, Faiella informed those gathered that she intended to go through the charges against Crabtree. To that point, Selectman Debra Panetta explained that she asked for an opinion from Town Counsel John Vasapolli as to whether it was appropriate for the board to hold a public hearing given the correspondence from Crabtree’s attorney.
Vasapolli concluded that Crabtree was entitled to withdraw his public hearing request and asserted that the Board of Selectmen has no right or authority to conduct a public hearing on the preliminary resolution for removal unless so requested by the town manager.
Panetta said she was very uncomfortable moving forward with the hearing, noting that town counsel advised the board going that route could expose the town to liability and money damages for violations of employment and contract law.
Faiella said it’s important that the people hear from the board in regard to the nine charges. She also pointed out that under the charter the selectmen had until Nov. 2 to make a decision on Crabtree’s status as town manager.
“The town has waited long enough, we’ve been professional and patient . . . The people in this town need to hear from us and why we filed the preliminary resolution in the first part,” Faiella said.
Panetta also protested that Faiella referred to the meeting as an administrative hearing during which the public wouldn’t be allowed to speak, emphasizing it’s wrong to prevent public participation.