GILFORD — When Jayson Hayden Sr. resigned as public works director last summer, he received about 19 weeks of salary, according to a separation agreement provided by the town.
His employment with the town ended on July 19. The agreement included wording that he would release the town from all legal claims.
Another public works employee, Brenda Leary, who was fired in March 2018, has filed a wrongful termination and whistleblower lawsuit against the town, alleging harassment, intimidation and a hostile work environment.
Among other things, the lawsuit asserts Hayden “made it clear that he had strong negative opinions of females and minorities, using offensive language to describe African-Americans and Jewish people.”
Both employees and citizens of the town complained of being offended by his language, according to the suit. Leary alleges he “encouraged employees to make her life difficult and unpleasant.”
A working telephone number could not be found to reach Hayden for comment on the allegations. Town officials refuse to comment on ongoing litigation.
The town paid an outside consultant, Municipal Resources Inc., $7,655 to produce a report on the state of the work environment in the public works department, said Town Administrator Scott Dunn. It was submitted in time for the Gilford selectmen to review last June.
Dunn refused a public records request from The Laconia Daily Sun to see the report.
“Upon the advice of Town Counsel, it is with regret that I am denying your request to inspect the MRI Report as noted below because it is not considered a public document,” Dunn said.
“More specifically, this document is exempt from disclosure pursuant to the provisions of RSA 91-A:5, IV. You may be interested to know that our legal analysis into this denial took into account the most recent NH Supreme Court decisions on such matters (Union Leader v. Town of Salem and Seacoast Newspaper v. Portsmouth) as released on May 29, 2020.”
Dunn refers to a statute that exempts from disclosure internal personnel practices. In the legal cases he refers to, The New Hampshire Supreme Court found that the personnel exemption should not be construed as categorical.
Newspaper Managing Editor Roger Carroll asked for reconsideration of the town’s decision to withhold the consultant’s report.
“I think it's fair to say that the public has an interest in knowing the findings of a study commissioned by the Selectboard for which the town undoubtedly paid a substantial sum of taxpayer money,” he said in an email to Dunn.
“For instance, disclosure would allow voters and taxpayers to assess whether the Public Works Department was operated in a manner that would be considered acceptable to the people who pay the bills.”
In response to the Sun's request for reconsideration, Dunn said the request would be decided by the town selectboard in consultation with legal counsel.
Hayden’s separation agreement, dated July 23, 2019, said “Mr. Hayden has been given the opportunity to resign as part of this agreement.”
“The Town agrees to waive its policies prohibiting payout of unused Sick Leave and Vacation Leave for employees who provide a resignation with less than two weeks of notice,” the agreement stated. “As a result, Mr. Hayden shall be paid compensation for 105.82 hours of vacation leave; 152 hours of sick leave; and 8 hours of Personal leave at his regular rate of pay, less all applicable withholdings.”
The agreement also specified that he would receive an additional 12 weeks of pay as severance.
The total amount paid to Hayden was not clear from the agreement, but the town in 2017 advertised the public works director position at $72,800 to $87,327. Hayden, who was operations manager in the Nashua Public Works Department, was hired by Gilford in late 2017.