Duties of Naples rec director addressed behind closed doors
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — Many of the residents who spoke before the Naples Board of Selectmen said their complaints about a town employee have been ignored and continue to be disregarded.
Additionally, members of the audience asked for clarification about the executive session that would take place later that evening. According to the agenda, the executive session was being held to discuss the duties and assignments of the Naples recreation director.
Resident Jim Grattelo questioned the legality of this specific reason, saying the board could do this to discuss an employee’s salary or disciplinary actions.
Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said the town attorney had advised the board to cite duties and assignments as the reason for the closed doors session.
Resident Roger Clement, who attends the selectmen meetings regularly throughout the year, spoke after the motion to enter into executive session.
“You plan to discuss duties and assignments only, not all the other things these folks came here to discuss?” Clement asked.
Chairman Bob Caron II replied that was the case.
The executive session started at 8:06 p.m., and the board made no motions other than to adjourn from the executive session.
While three times as many people showed up at an open meeting two weeks ago, about a half-dozen people once again brought forward their complaints about the Naples Recreation Director Harvey Price during the regularly-scheduled selectmen meeting on Monday.
The Naples residents who had grievances with Price expressed a common theme: Town management had ignored their concerns. People who could not reason with Price had gone to his supervisor, Town Manager Paraschak. Time after time, there was no resolution, people said.
Yet on Monday, a few of the selectmen suggested that citizens take the same steps that had resulted in a dead-end for other residents who have made complaints.
Selectman Christine Powers said that any concerns about a town employee or town department head should be brought to the town manager.
“That is the chain of command,” she said.
Paraschak said he would be happy to meet one-on-one with concerned citizens.
Naples resident Suzanne Deschenes is among the people who have brought an issue about Price to the town manager with unsatisfactory results.
So, on Sept. 8, Deschenes started an online petition to remove Price from his position as recreation director. A month later, the ipetition has garnered 282 signatures and 145 comments.
On Monday, Deschenes spoke to the board during public participation, “Mr. Paraschak, you appear to have a difficult time placing the needs of this community above your relationship with the town recreation director. You also appear to have a difficult time managing Harvey. If you can’t place this town’s needs as your priority and can’t manage one man, why on earth should we trust you to manage this town?”
“Board of Selectpersons, I’m directing that question at you, as well,” she said.
Naples resident and local business owner Laurie Frizzell said when residents mention Price, “a wall goes up” and there is a prevailing attitude of “us against them.”
“I guess what I need to know, I hope that you all take this seriously, we have a problem here,” Frizzell said. “Is this a problem?”
Chairman Caron said, “We cannot talk about his performance in a public forum. There are two sides to every story. It is our job, it is our responsibility, to look at both sides.”
Once she realized that an executive session was on the agenda that evening, Frizzell asked what the board planned to do in the executive session.
“Our goal is to talk about what is on the agenda with the rec director. I cannot tell you what decision we are going to make,” Caron said.
Frizzell said, “And if we aren’t happy with your decision, this isn’t going to end for us.
I am hoping you are taking it seriously.”
Caron said, “We are,” and added that is why the executive session was placed on the agenda.
Later during the meeting, Frizzell said, “The reason people are speaking out is: We don’t feel like you are listening to us. They are discouraged.”
One of the comments on the online petition was posted by Naples resident Geoff Grigsby, whose statements about nothing being done about inappropriate behavior were echoed by people at Monday’s meeting.
“Regardless of his tenure at the town, the manager is Harvey’s neighbor and close friend. That, in itself, isn’t a conflict of interest, but when community members continually complain about Harvey with not only no change, but not even a response, that’s when nepotism is in place,” Grisby wrote. “Overall, it seems to hundreds of people, in a town of only a couple thousand, that the public servants in charge of Naples are looking out for their own best interests, to the detriment of taxpayers and children. Their behavior seems to range from disinterested to bullying to rudeness to uncontrolled anger,” he said. “I’m sure there are folks on the other side of the aisle, and maybe it’s the majority. Both sides deserve to be heard, and it seems until now that the people on this petition have been ignored and not given a public voice,” Grigsby wrote. “We’ll see what happens.”