WOLFEBORO — Selectmen have fired Town Manager Becky Merrow and will conduct a search for a permanent replacement.
At a Wednesday evening meeting, Selectmen Chairwoman Linda Murray said Merrow was given a letter on Jan. 18 listing seven reasons for her dismissal.
The letter was not released and Murray said the town will not share these reasons with the public. Documents related to employee job performance are exempt from the state’s open records law.
“This exemption is intended to protect the private interest and reputation of public employees,” Murray said. “To the extent it could release these records, the town as a matter of policy and practice does not speak publicly about job performance of any town employee or reasons that an employee was subject to disciplinary action or termination.
“In deciding not to release the reasons for her termination, the board extended to Ms. Merrow the same courtesy and protection that it extends to all of its employees and that any employee working for any employer can respectfully hope for and expect.”
Merrow’s attorney, Jon Meyer, did not immediately return a call for comment on Thursday.
Murray said Merrow was on administrative leave before she was terminated for cause and given three months of severance pay and benefits totaling $36,153.
Before the firing, Merrow did not opt for a nonpublic hearing before the selectmen. She objected that it would be similar to an employee-employer meeting rather than a hearing in which evidence would be presented and witnesses could be cross examined, Murray said.
Fire Chief James Pineo is serving as acting town manager. The board plans to conduct its own search for Merrow’s replacement rather than hire an outside firm.
Merrow worked six years as town manager for Colebrook before becoming town manager in Wolfeboro on June 1.
The Board of Selectmen first announced Merrow’s termination in a meeting on Feb 25.
At that meeting, Wolfeboro resident Richard Masse said the episode with Merrow was unfortunate for the town.
“I’m not going to presume to judge what happened, although there are, as you must know, any number of rumors going around the town,” he said. “And to my mind it’s a bit disappointing that the board has not made any attempt to set the record straight in any way, shape or form in a formal way. Whether the problem was one of inadequate vetting or whether it was a problem of inadequate leadership, helping a town employee settle in or something in between.
“It does not make the community look good, and as I say it does not make the board look good.”
He said plans to hire a new employee could be made more difficult by this situation and could suppress the number and quality of candidates who apply.