ARCHIVE THIS! Selectmen deny library archivist’s request for leave of absence
TOWN HOUSE- Susan April, the archivist at the Kingston Public Library, will not be allowed to take an extended leave of absence from her job after the Board of Selectmen took the unusual step of denying a town employee authorization for an unpaid leave of absence on Tuesday night.
April, who first requested the leave of absence 11 months ago, told the selectmen that she hoped to sail around the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. and write a book about her experience. April told the selectmen that she wished to return to Kingston after the trip was over.
“We’ve been saving money for a long time,” April told the selectmen on Tuesday night.
The selectmen, under the direction of Dick Arruda as temporary chairman, also took the unusual step of allowing the public to interject their comments into the board discussion.
Peter Boncek, a member of the Wage & Personnel Committee, spoke to the selectmen in opposition of authorization for April’s requested leave of absence. “This isn’t against [April], this isn’t against the position. This is against opening doors to anybody in town,” Boncek said while arguing that allowing the leave of absence would “set precedent.”
Yesterday, Acting Town Administrator Nancy Howlett told KingstonJournal.com that leaves of absence are usually approved by the town administrator but April’s request was on the agenda for Tuesday’s selectmen meeting for the purposes of memorializing the leave of absence.
Fran Bothelo-Hoeg, a former town moderator, spoke to the selectmen in support of allowing April to take the leave. Bothelo-Hoeg believed the only reason April’s request appeared before the selectmen was because Howlett was uncomfortable unilaterally approving the leave of absence due to her title as acting town administrator.
“The bylaw here is very clear. It gives short leaves of absence approval in the hands of the department head, and if you want it to be longer than that it has to go to the town administrator,” Bothelo-Hoeg said.
Bothelo-Hoeg, a former school principal, continued to say that in the world of education, leaves of absence are far from unprecedented.
Former Town Moderator Bothelo-Hoeg also said, both on Facebook and at Tuesday’s meeting, that she felt “uncomfortable” discussing April’s request in an open forum-type setting.
Howlett told the Journal that leaves of absence for town employees are regulated by Wage & Personnel Bylaws (Section 13) and require the authorization of the department head and town administrator. The bylaw is also silent regarding how long a leave of absence can be.
Sia Stewart, the Library Director, spoke on behalf of April for several minutes and called her a “valued employee” who deserved the leave of absence. Stewart offered to hire a temporary employee but Selectwoman MacFarlane was skeptical and stated that she had to look out for the taxpayers, adding that the leave of absence could cause the town to “lose money” because of questions regarding employee benefits.
Howlett said on Wednesday that she cannot make a decision on April’s leave of absence after the selectmen voted 3-1 to deny the request on Tuesday night.
Susan Munford, Dick Arruda and Sandy MacFarlane all voted to deny the unpaid leave of absence. Gleason was the one vote in support of allowing April to return to her job after sailing up and down the East Coast.
Chairman Joe Casna, who is on vacation, was not in attendance for Tuesday’s meeting.
Gleason had first asked to table the discussion before April’s request was denied.
April, a resident of Wareham, told the selectmen that she planned to leave for the trip in Spring 2014.
KingstonJournal.com ALWAYS wants to know your opinion! Submit a comment below and tell us what you think…should the selectmen have voted to deny April’s request for a leave of absence, or were they spot on with their vote?