School Committee member Bill Mudge has filed a new open meetings complaint against the School Committee. The complaint alleges the panel discussed something in executive (i.e. closed) session during its meeting Aug. 13 that was not on the agenda – specifically whether or not Finance Director Mary King should or could take on the town's finance director duties.
Mudge cited the agenda item for that meeting: "C. Employee Job Performance pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5(a) (1). Person(s) affected have been given written notification and advised that they may require that the discussion be held in open session."
"To my way of thinking there's a big difference between job performance and restructuring the job itself," said Mudge.
This is Mudge's eighth complaint against the School Committee since he elected to the panel three years ago; the state Attorney General ruled in favor of the School Committee in the previous seven complaints.
School Committee Chairwoman Kim Page said it was appropriate to hold the discussion in executive session because King is an employee. King was alerted to the agenda item, Page said, and told she could request it take place in open session. She did not, according to Page.
Page said she just wished Mudge would bring his complaints to the committee when the meetings are taking place, rather than a month later.
"I wish at these sessions if Bill had a problem he would bring it up right then," she said. "There was no indication from him at all in the executive session that he thought we weren't compliant in the open meetings law."
For School Committeeman John Boscardin, Mudge's complaints are a waste of taxpayer money.
"It's really becoming absurd," said Boscardin, who noted the Mudge often talks about wanting to save taxpayer money. According to the School Department, legal fees associated with Mudge's complaints through May (during this most recent term) were $7,000.
"Bill Mudge fancies himself a champion of fiscal conservatism yet his desire to catch somebody doing something wrong costs money.
Every time he writes a letter to the attorney general, we have to have our lawyer respond to that," Boscardin said. "$7,000 is $7,000."
"What I chose my role to be was the financial governance and wise expenditure of taxpayers money," said Mudge. "The Town Council and the School Committee have done a lousy and terrible job of spending our taxpayers' money."
He added, "It's all about transparency."
The talks about King did not proceed. According to Page, King already puts in a 40-hour-plus work week, so it was hard for Page to see how King would have been able to do both jobs. Town Manager Mike Embury, meanwhile, hired Ted Przybyla for the town finance director job. He starts this week.