EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 29, 2013

Salem selectman accused of acting out of line

Campbell said to have exceeded authority

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM, N.H. — Only nine months after selectmen voted to have fellow board member Stephen Campbell investigated, he’s on the hot seat again.

Campbell, cited last winter for aggressively interrogating and intimidating town employees, is accused of confronting a firefighter and questioning him in a grocery store Nov. 17. Campbell denies the incident occurred.

Shawn Patten, president of the Salem Public Administrators Association, has sent a letter to Town Manager Keith Hickey and human resources director Molly McKean, saying Campbell has exceeded his authority as a selectman.

“SPAA cannot and will no longer accept nor turn a blind eye to Mr. Campbell’s actions or behavior,” said Patten, the town’s deputy police chief.

“It is my belief that formal action, collective or otherwise, on every single allegation, violation, unfair labor practice, etc., against Mr. Campbell and (the Board of Selectmen) will be forthcoming in the near future if he is allowed to continue his abhorrent behavior,” Patten said.

He said Wednesday he has since met with the leaders of the town’s four other employee unions to consider the matter.

“We are frankly sick and tired of Mr. Campbell’s actions,” Patten said. “There is no place for that in a productive workplace.”

Campbell has asked about the number of hours worked by town employees, especially police and firefighters. He said public safety could be jeopardized if police and firefighters are allowed to work excessive overtime and special details.

Selectmen briefly discussed the incident Monday that reportedly occurred at a local Market Basket, saying it was an issue that likely would be addressed at a future meeting.

Few details were released, but Campbell denied approaching a firefighter in the grocery store. He said residents often come up and speak to him when he’s at the store.

He continued to deny confronting a firefighter when contacted two days later.

“I have no recollection of talking to anyone,” Campbell said. “I made it a point last February that I’m not talking to employees.”

That was when the four other selectmen voted to have Campbell investigated by either the county attorney’s office or another outside party.

The decision was made after McKean accused Campbell of acting in an “aggressive and intimidating” manner toward her.

McKean told selectmen Campbell was “hostile” when he approached her about a severance package paid to a former employee.

At the time, Hickey said three other employees had threatened hostile work environment claims against the town, all stemming from incidents involving Campbell.

Campbell denied acting out of line and said in the future he would only speak to Hickey in such situations.

Two weeks later, the board voted to drop the investigation and decided Campbell should meet with the employees so they could resolve their differences.

The matter hasn’t been discussed publicly since. Selectman Michael Lyons was irate when he saw Patten’s letter, dated Nov. 21.

“These are allegations I thought we cleaned up. What’s going on?” Lyons said. “I’m tired of this.”

Hickey said Wednesday he was told the unidentified firefighter was at Market Basket buying food for the firefighters’ meal at the station when Campbell approached him.

The firefighter reported to his supervisor the next day that he was interrogated by Campbell and did his best to answer the selectman’s questions, fire Chief Kevin Breen said.

“He asked numerous questions pertaining to what he was doing there,” Breen said. “I have been asked by my manager to review the incident.”

Campbell, seeing the firefighter in his uniform, also asked who was cooking the meal and what would happen if firefighters had to suddenly respond to a call, Breen said.

Breen said he was surprised Campbell doesn’t remember the incident.

“I don’t know how he can’t recall it,” Breen said. “(The firefighter) was in full uniform.”