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Published On: Tue, May 15th, 2012

Accusations fly at tense selectmen meeting

Less than ninety minutes after Joseph Casna was elected chairman on a 3-2 vote, he was using his gavel, attempting to restore order to an open forum littered with accusations and high tempers as controversy over the handling of Susan Munford’s harassment complaint continued Tuesday night.

Munford, a sergeant in the Kingston Police, was a candidate for selectman when her harassment complaint against town administrator James Thomas was cleared by a unanimous selectmen vote on April 24th.

Munford topped the ballot for the selectman’s race four days later.

Pat Kelleher

Patrick Kelleher, a supporter of Munford, took to the microphone in open forum Tuesday to confront Thomas on his decision to hold the hearing in open session.

Thomas was quick to fire back at Kelleher, saying his decision was “in the spirit of transparency and open government,” and that the open session option was elected, “to uphold my good name, and the good name of the Town of Kingston.”

“The allegations that were brought forward by Sgt. Sue Munford were baseless and with malice, and had no standing at all,” Thomas said, prompting Munford to display a baffled expression to the audience.

Thomas continued, “I have been slammed, slandered. Repeatedly. In the newspaper, as well as in many of [Kelleher’s] blogs.”

Thomas was then gaveled down by Casna.

Casna turned his attention to Kelleher, saying, “I see no good in continuing this conversation here tonight, and I would ask that you stop it now.”

Kelleher responded, suggesting that political maneuvering was the true culprit.

Casna then recognized Munford, who thanked Kelleher and referenced him as a “life-long friend.”

“I know there are plenty of people in this town who think that they need to come to my aid, and I love you all…but this is a battle for another day,” Munford said.

Kelleher followed Munford, “you all had something to gain by some cheap shot actions by a new administrator,” before leaving the podium and exiting the room.

The conversation is likely to continue on May 22nd, due to a motion suggested by Sandy MacFarlane.

MacFarlane, who has described Thomas’ style as “bullying,” took exception with Richard Arruda’s statement, which defended the findings of a private investigation. Arruda’s statement was posted on Wicked Local: Kingston shortly after Munford released her own statement, accusing the selectmen of attempting to discredit her the day before the town’s annual election. MacFarlane stated she was not aware that the statement had been drafted and felt it wrongly spoke for the board.

MacFarlane’s motion to review the selectman’s policy regarding press releases for board members received a second from Munford.

Arruda voted in favor of the motion.

The next selectman’s meeting is scheduled for May 22nd at 6 p.m.. Check back with KingstonJournal.com for updates on this story.

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