Published Date Written by Gail OberGILMANTON — The recent firing of Recycling Facilities Manager Justin Leavitt came to a head at last night's candidates forum held at the Gilmanton School when Selectboard candidate Betty Ann Abbott referred to it in her statements.
Abbott, who has served one previous term as selectman, told the audience of about 50 people that she was concerned about a lack of respect for policies and procedures and a lack of respect for department heads.
The Daily Sun learned of Leavitt's dismissal last night when one man told Abbott he thought the recycling station was "out of control" and wanted to know what she would do about it.
Abbott's response was that she "was shocked" to learn Leavitt had been fired and said she felt the decision was "not given a great deal of thought."
According to minutes of a selectman's meeting held February 22, Leavitt was placed on administrative leave because someone in the recycling center was accessing "inappropriate material" on a town-owned computer, in some cases as late a 11 p.m. to midnight.
Leavitt's defense was that he is not the only user of the computer and that other people can log on to it with a different sign-in name. He said at the February meeting he wanted more time to "analyze the forensics" to determine who was using the computer for inappropriate content.
The February 22 meeting was held in public because under the N.H. Right-To-Know Act, an accused employee has the right to have a dismissal or disciplinary hearing in public if he or she requests it.
Minutes reflect Leavitt told the board that numerous people had keys to the Recycling Facility. Board members told him they would give him all of the forensic evidence he needed but reminded him of previous statements he made to them saying he is the only one with access to the computer.
Leavitt was apparently dismissed Monday night, although minutes are not available yet for that meeting and it is not known if the action was done in a non-public session.
When one man in last night's audience accused Abbott and her "clique" of "sticking their noses into something that wasn't any of their business," she replied that was why she was running and the town had better be prepared for a "pack of lawsuits coming their way."
The same man also said he felt the Recycling Center looked more orderly now that it had been in the past.
In answer to the man's question, Abbott said she would expedite the hiring of a Recycling Facilities manager who would get the facility operating properly again.
She said the current board showed a "lack of leadership" when it placed Leavitt on paid administrative leave and didn't bring in any additional help to run the facility.
The other Selectboard candidate, Don Guarino — who also served two previous terms as selectman, was not questioned about the recent event at the Recycling Center and didn't address it. He said only that he did not think Gilmanton was ready for mandatory recycling because the facility was not designed for it.
Guarino reiterated his desire to use Gilmanton's portion of Route 106 for commercial development. When asked, he said he would not put the Year-Round Library appropriation into the operating budget if it passed as a separate warrant article this year but would leave it up to the voters to decide on annually.