In Sanbornton, Ober calls out Nickerson for serial resignations she says he then takes back

SANBORNTON — Selectmen Karen Ober has called out Selectman Dave Nickerson for resigning during a non-public meeting on September 25 that she was unable to attend.

As of yesterday, Nickerson had recanted his resignation and is still a selectman.

According to minutes of the meeting, Nickerson apparently sent a RSA 91-A Right To Know request to Chair Guy Giunta — the contents of which led to a non-public session called under RSA 91-A (c) — the portion of the Right-to-Know law that allows for a non-public session if the discussion could effect the reputation of someone who does not sit on that board.

During the non-public meeting, Nickerson and Giunta apparently disagreed on the topic leading to Nickerson's resignation. Minutes made public only indicate the meeting was held to weigh a matter that was discussed on September 4. There were two non-public meeting held on Sept. 4 and minutes of both indicate the board discussed each of two finalists for the position of town finance director. Minutes say the meeting ended without a quorum and without a vote.

Upon Ober's return, she said she heard "through the grapevine" about the meeting and Nickerson's resignation so she listened to the tape of the entire meeting so she could better understand what happened.

In a statement read aloud by Ober of October 2 and entered into the record verbatim, she chastised Nickerson for resigning, saying that she "wanted to point out that this is the sixth time you have resigned and then changed your mind."

She said his frequent resignations appear to occur when he disagrees with either herself or Giunta or both.

"It seems like this is happening way more frequently, this behavior," she continued.

Ober said Nickerson's behavior has affected many board decisions and she was almost happy she was not there on September 25 so the argument couldn't be blamed on her.

She said she was concerned with the way town employees are being treated and, in her opinion, the role of all the selectmen is to help town employees and department heads become better at what they do.

She said she has witnessed over the past two-and one-half years an increasingly hostile attitude by some elected officials to town employees and that it's wrong. She said Nickerson had told her that the problem was with the department heads so she attended workshop sessions with the Local Government Center and Primex to better understand where the problems were.

"Dave, you said I was wrong, that it was only for department heads. That's not true," she said, adding treating employees with respect and dignity begins at the top, with selectmen, and they are the ones who must set the example.

"Our situation here every Wednesday gets increasingly more volatile... with obviously orchestrated complaints by a lot of 'wannabe DPW Directors.'" She said she and her husband (former selectman Steve Ober) get phone calls on their private cells from people who didn't get their private numbers from her and e-mails at their private e-mail accounts again from people to whom she didn't give her e-mail address, saying someone is putting out information including her family's private contacts.

"This is being done intentionally and it's deliberate, it's a set up, and it needs to stop," she said.

Ober went on to say that at this point the selectmen needs to figure out a way "around this insanity" and said she was in favor of having some kind of outside assessment done because she doesn't think anybody in the town has the skills to (stop the infighting in Sanbornton.)

Sanbornton has a town administrator form of government as opposed to a town or city manager type. In the former, all department heads answer to the governing body, in the latter, department heads answer to a town manager who answers to selectmen.

"We need to become more effective as a board and we need to conduct town business and we need to work for the best of the town," Ober said.