EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 26, 2013

Salem selectmen's meeting becomes heated

Who's the boss in Salem?


“Because I wasn’t asked,” he said.

While selectmen discussed several other subjects in a cordial manner, the tenor of the meeting quickly changed when the ninth item on the board’s agenda happened to be accusations that Keller and Lyons discussed details of a nonpublic meeting with an Eagle-Tribune reporter.

Campbell, who raised the issue, quoted portions of an article published Feb. 13 that described a nonpublic session at which selectmen discussed a $42,000 severance payment to former chief building official Sam Zannini.

Zannini retired in December after his job was eliminated. He had worked for the town for 36 years.

After discussing the severance agreement in closed session Feb. 11, the issue surfaced again during the public portion of the board’s meeting that night.

Human resources director Molly McKean referenced the agreement when describing a confrontation she had with Campbell, who was upset about the payment to Zannini.

Zannini’s name was not mentioned in public, but was included in McKean’s memo about the confrontation nearly two weeks earlier.

She accused Campbell of acting out of line, prompting the rest of the board to vote to have him investigated. They later decided to drop the probe.

When Keller and Lyons were asked about the severance agreement with Zannini the next day, they said they could not comment because it was a nonpublic matter. Neither mentioned Zannini by name, but Lyons refuted Campbell’s claim that selectmen had no previous knowledge of the agreement.

“I totally 100 percent disagree with that,” Lyons said.

Lyons said he and Keller asked that the severance be discussed in public, but the other selectmen refused. Hargreaves later said that Keller and Lyons should not have said anything at all about the case, prompting Campbell to raise the issue last night.

“It appears from this article that two selectmen may have talked about a nonpublic meeting,” Campbell said. “You can’t even tell anyone or a reporter what the subject matter is.”

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