BARNSTEAD — Selectmen fired former Road Agent Chris Carazzo for refusing to cooperate with a town-generated investigation into the possible theft of recyclable materials.
According to a notice of dismissal letter filed with the Town Clerk's Office, selectmen had been told in April that Carazzo allegedly brought town-owned metals to Harding Metals of Northwood and Berwick Iron & Metal Recycling in Maine and kept the money for himself.
When the board began its investigation in late April, they met with Carazzo, the town attorney, and an investigator. Selectmen said the investigator spoke with a number of people and his report, if true, indicated that he "refused or neglected to carry out the duties prescribed by law for highway agents."
Despite the meeting, the board asked and later instructed Carazzo to sign authorizations for his personal access to the company's records so the investigator could examine and document the metal deliveries he allegedly made.
On the advice of his attorney, Carazzo refused and selectmen terminated his employment as of September 3, telling him that the signed authorizations were "reasonably necessary" for them to continue their investigation.
Selectmen also told him that his refusal to sign the releases could be grounds for his termination, citing RSA 231:65 that says (elected) highway agents shall be sworn in by selectmen, are under their supervision, and if any agent "shall intentionally or deliberately refuse or neglect to carry out the duties prescribed by law for highway agents after written request by the selectmen, the selectmen may remove such agent from office."
Carazzo was first elected to the position of road agent in 2008.
As part of the dismissal letter, selectmen said Carazzo's removal is not based on any conclusions about misappropriation of town money but on his deliberate refusal to obey a direct order from the board.
Selectboard Chair Priscilla Tiede recused herself from the meeting according to the minutes obtained from the Barnstead website. The letter was signed by Vice Chair David Kerr, James Barnard and Gordon Preston. Selectman Francis Vardaro did not sign it.
Kerr said he had no comment on the specific matter, but when asked if he supported Barnstead continuing with an elected road agent — as opposed to hiring a person to manage the department — Kerr said the voters at annual town meeting have consistently rejected the idea.
He said it was too soon to know if the selectmen would support a related article in 2014.
Earlier this year, a former employee of the Barnstead Highway Department filed a complaint in Belknap County Superior Court against Carazzo and the town for sexual discrimination, claiming Carazzo called him a number of emasculating names during his employment with the town. The time frame of the alleged harassment began in 2009 and continued until July of 2010 when he resigned.
Richard Niolet alleges that the allegedly "hostile work environment" began with a racial slur made to him by a subcontractor who was working for the town and under Carazzo's supervision. Niolet has a mixed-race family and he claims that the harassment started when he complained to Carazzo about the subcontractor's comments.