Whether Public Works Superintendent Bob Lamoureux will work for the town of Seekonk past next June may be determined by an attorney.
With Gary Sagar voting "present," the Board of Selectmen was unable to break a 2-2 tie Wednesday night on whether to begin contract renewal negotiations with Lamoureux, who has held his position for nearly eight years. Town Administrator Pam Nolan said this meant his contract was automatically renewed for a year. Selectman Bob McLintock said he wanted to hear an opinion about what the voting result meant from the town's legal consultant.
A large crowd, made up mostly of Lamoureux supporters, attended the meeting. Several times they let their emotions loose with cheers, jeers and critical comments.
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Those voting in favor of negotiating a new three-year contract with Lamoureux were Nelson Almeida and Dave Parker. Those voting against were McLintock and Francis Cavaco. After he was pressed for an answer by Parker, Sagar said he voted "present" because he supported letting Lamoureux stay for one more year.
Nolan had recommended Lamoureux not receive a new three-year contract, but she did want him stay one more year.
"I asked Mr. Lamoureux for a lot of improvement," she said. "I have seen improvement ... I would prefer that he were on longer so that ... we could work out our relationship so we could work out together."
McLintock did not need any more time. He said there have been problems with Lamoureux's projects.
"If you look at the performance, there are many, many reasons why this man should not be reappointed in my opinion … you're going to hear more about them in the future," McLintock said.
Parker said there was no reason not to renew Lamoureux's contract and everybody with whom he had spoken agreed with him. He said this included Seekonk residents and state Department of Transportation officials who have dealt with Lamoureux.
"Mr. Lamoureux is the first one in and he's the last one out," Almeida said. "He's out there actually working with his guys. He is not the typical supervisor just pointing the finger and making somebody dig a hole."
Cavaco, who also opposed Lamoureux's contract renewal in 2010, did not specify why he opposed renewing it this time, but Lamoureux said he knew. He told the selectmen Cavaco had a personal problem with him.
"It has been made very apparent, especially in the recent months, that Mr. Cavaco has a personal problem with me … criticism of my job performance coincided with Mr. Cavaco becoming chair of the Board of Selectmen," said Lamoureux in a speech that was interrupted twice by Cavaco, who said it was not appropriate.
The selectmen needed to vote on the contract renewal because the town requires employees be given six month's notice that they will lose their job. Lamoureux's current contract expires at the end of June. Town Engineer David Cabral's contract also expires at that time, and the selectmen voted 3-2 on Wednesday to begin renewal negotiations with him. The dissenting votes came from Cavaco and McLintock.
Several people spoke in favor of Lamoureux during the Community Speaks portion of the meeting. Among them was Cabral. Town Clerk Jan Parker said the selectmen's non-decision was another blow to the already low employee morale.
"What was done here tonight [and] what was done [two weeks ago] to another town employee is a travesty," Parker said. "And the morale in this building is already in the toilet, and this is just going to add to it."
Former Selectwoman Carol Bragg announced she would begin a 30-day fast "on behalf of the employees of this town who are continually disrespected by the board."
Bragg said what she considers to be abuse and mistreatment of town employees by selectmen and Nolan is a form of "psychological violence."
"Somebody needs to atone for the violence that's done by this board to our employees," Bragg said.
As she moved to sit down following her statements, Cavaco said Bragg had cost the town more than $6,000 several years ago when as a selectwoman she made a racially charged comment to a black Planning Board member. Bragg returned to the microphone a few minutes later to say she had not made the comment she was accused of making. She said the town did have to pay a lawyer to contest a lawsuit alleging she had made the racially charged comment, but it was not her fault because she had not filed the suit.
Following the meeting, Lamoureux thanked numerous people outside the selectmen chambers for their support.
"I'm overwhelmed and humbled by the support," he said. "You folks are wonderful. I'm not going anywhere. April is right around the corner."
Somebody asked him what is special about April. Lamoureux responded, "We have an election."
Cavaco is up for re-election in April.
Editor's Note: The original version of this story stated the vote was 4-1 in favor of negotiating a contract renewal with David Cabral. The vote was 3-2.