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February 13, 2013

Salem selectmen seek probe of fellow member

Campbell criticized for aggressive behavior

SALEM — Four selectmen want an outside investigation into the behavior of their colleague, Selectman Stephen Campbell.

Campbell is known for his determination in digging to get answers to town issues. But now, he’s dug himself into a deep hole.

The other selectmen voted Monday for an investigation of Campbell by either the county attorney or another outside party.

That move happened after human resources director Molly McKean accused Campbell of acting in an “aggressive and intimidating” manner toward her.

McKean told the board Monday that Campbell was confrontational recently when he approached her about a severance package paid to a former town employee. Campbell, unable to find Town Manager Keith Hickey, questioned her about the payment instead, she said.

“It came across as aggressive and hostile,” McKean said. “It was very clear to me he was angry.”

It wasn’t the first time either, she said.

Hickey said three other town employees have threatened to file hostile work environment claims against the town, all stemming from incidents involving Campbell.

“It puts them in a very uncomfortable position,” Hickey told selectmen. “There is an issue here that is potentially putting the town at risk of litigation.”

But Campbell defended his actions, saying he usually consults with Hickey before speaking to a town employee and that the town manager never objects.

He said he didn’t think he was out of line when he asked McKean about the severance payment.

“If I have to, I will go through the town manager 100 percent of the time to avoid this sort of thing,” he said.

The employee who received the severance deal wasn’t mentioned by name during the meeting. But the name of former chief building inspector Sam Zannini was included in a Feb. 1 memo from McKean to Hickey.

Copies of that memo were distributed to selectmen.

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