Lawyers helping to negotiate a truce between Gilford Selectboard & Town Clerk Denise Gonyer

GILFORD — After a lengthy mediation between the Board of Selectmen and the Town Clerk/Tax Collector, the board has come up with what it believes is an agreement as to the authority and rights of the clerk and the employees who work in her department.
Selectman Kevin Hayes said yesterday the agreement is the result of a mediation session held last Thursday at Town Clerk/Tax Collector Denise Gonyer's lawyer's office. Gonyer is represented by Ann Rice. He said the selectmen were represented by attorney Mark Booth.
The purpose, he said was to define what Booth has described as a "hybrid" position — meaning the department head is elected in her own right, however the employees and equipment in her office are controlled by the Board of the Selectmen.
Hayes said the purpose of the proposed agreement — he said Gonyer has yet to sign it — was to settle issues that have occurred between the Town Clerk/Tax Collector and the Board of Selectmen, including their most recent attempt to separate the tax collector portion of the job (which not elected) from the town clerk's portion, which by state law must be elected.
The attempted split was placed on the warrant by the selectmen who, after hearing a great deal of opposition to it at the Deliberative Session of Town Meeting, decided not to recommend its passage. The warrant article failed by a vote of 638 to 98.
"It's an attempt to understand Denise's job and for her to understand our role," said Hayes. "We wanted it written down so the taxpayers understand how the department is run."
Hayes said there have been "issues" between the board and the Town Clerk/Tax Collector and he wants to put them behind him.
"I want to move on and be friends." he said, adding he personally believes the Town Clerk Tax Collector's Office is well-run and efficient.
The proposed agreement recognizes Gonyer's independence as an elected official but states that the employees of the office are expected to comply with all Gilford personnel policies.
The proposed agreement also recognizes that certain information held in the Town-Clerk-Tax Collectors Office is confidential and not subject to the Right-To-Know law. The proposal gives the Town Clerk/Tax Collector the right to consult with town counsel about the confidentiality of information.
Despite this, the town's proposed agreement gives town officials rights of access to the office, office equipment and the computer system. Though the town clerk is not subject to the Gilford Use of Technology Policy, the proposed agreement says the employees of the office are.
The proposal also says that disagreements between the two entities such as staffing, equipment and hours of operation should be resolved through direct communications. In the rare instances that a matter needs to go to the public, the proposed agreement says the presentation of the issue should be done in "a manner that demonstrates the mutual respect between the offices..."
When reached for comment, Gonyer said she would be consulting with her lawyer before she signs the agreement.
Selectmen voted 2 to 1 to accept the proposal. Selectman John O'Brien voted against it.