Rick Stone speaks out: Highway foreman fights back

CORNWALL — Highway Department Foreman Rick Stone resigned from his job in late October, at the urging of the Board of Selectmen, amid allegations he improperly spent town funds. He has now filed his own complaint against the town.

It came in the form of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed Nov. 23 that accuses the selectmen of not properly noticing meetings held to deal with the matter and not allowing Stone adequate notice and/or accurate information of the purpose of the meetings or giving him the opportunity to exercise his right for discussions to be held publicly.

Stone is asking the state Freedom of Information Commission to find that a special meeting held Oct. 26 was in violation of the Freedom of Information Act, and to find that the acceptance of Stone’s resignation at that meeting should be overturned.

It is not clear if he is seeking to get his job back.

The selectmen met with Stone for more than three hours that night, coming out of executive session for 30 minutes. During that time, they voted publicly to accept Stone’s resignation and give him two weeks severance pay and two weeks of vacation pay.

The selectmen have declined to publicly discuss details of allegations that had been made against Stone.

But the complaint filed by Stone’s attorney, Jeffrey Sienkiewicz, offers essentially the same description of the circumstances that is circulating around town.

“During the executive session, the respondents confronted Mr. Stone over the use of his personal vehicle and equipment for town work and over his expenditure of town funds for fuel and for a starter for the equipment,� Sienkiewicz wrote. “The respondents threatened Mr. Stone with criminal prosecution for using town funds ‘without authorization’ to purchase such fuel and starter and coerced his resignation under the threat of criminal prosecution.�

The complaint also alleges that Stone was told he was to meet with the selectmen to discuss the highway department budget, when the more accurate reason was to discuss his continued employment.

The complaint states that a copy of the meeting notice provided by the selectmen is not stamped by the town clerk, as required, and says it is unclear if it was posted at least 24 hours in advance.

On Nov. 5, Sienkiewicz notified the Board of Selectmen that Stone had rescinded his resignation.

The board met with Town Attorney Perley Grimes on Dec. 1, spending nearly three hours in executive session before voting to authorize Grimes to “vigorously represent� the board in the complaint.

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