Shirley Facilities Manager Fired Over Access Issues, Will Appeal
By Scott Shurtleff
SHIRLEY -- Selectmen voted 2-1 Thursday to fire town facilities manager Patrice Fullhart, who has been on paid administrative leave since mid-June.
The charges against Fullhart included: allowing for unauthorized personnel to enter town hall; failure to cooperate with police investigators; and failure to notify officials about out-of-state travels that the board contends was a vacation while on paid leave.
Fullhart has said the trip was for bereavement and not for pleasure and that she was not aware of any travel restrictions.
Thursday’s meeting was scheduled for a closed session. Fullhart exercised her right to have the meeting in the open.
Selectmen Debra Flagg and Enrico Cappucci voted to terminate Fullhart. Selectman Bryan Sawyer vote to not terminate.
Town Counsel Tim Zessin, citing hearing officer Jared Yanis’s investigative report, said Fullhart was unavailable to cooperate with Yanis on the investigation, though Fullhart asked for a prompt and thorough review.
Yanis delved into the town’s computer system to find several correspondences between Fullhart and Bryan Dumont, whom she is alleged to have allowed to enter the building in January.
Facebook messages between Fullhart and Dumont, who serves on several town boards, included derisive comments about some town employees and policies. Most notable are remarks that Fullhart admittedly made toward Flagg. Fullhart took issue with a controversial email that Flagg sent to all town employees, with the intention that it remain internal and not be shared with the public.
Fullhart took a screenshot of the email and forwarded it to Dumont, who manages a website critical of town happenings. Dumont published the email.
The issue began when another town employee, Karen Barrett, said in a sworn statement that she saw a man she did not recognize, inside town offices while the building was closed Jan. 17 due to a snowstorm. That person was later determined to be Dumont.
Key-card data storage show Barrett and Fullhart were in the building that morning. Fullhart and her union representative, Nadine Kennedy, said Barrett didn’t give that sworn statement until June 19, 11 days after Fullhart had been placed on administrative leave.
Selectmen agreed that Dumont was in the building without authorization and that Barrett is credible in her recollection. But they also expressed doubts that Fullhart was unequivocally guilty of letting him in. Yanis’s report could not definitively incriminate Fullhart. The vote on this particular point was 2-0, with Sawyer abstaining, based on the doubts in Yanis’s conclusions.
Fullhart maintains the allegations about the January incident are reciprocal and vindictive, based on her indirectly sharing Flagg’s email to the public. Flagg wrote to Acting Town Administrator Rocco Longo, who left office in the spring, praising that he ”... could make a rapist feel worthwhile...”
Fullhart took offense to the language and forwarded the email to Dumont. At Thursday’s hearing Flagg, addressing Fullhart directly, said, “I sent you an apology within a few hours.”
Fullhart shot back, “You writing the email is far worse than me leaking it.”
Fullhart immediately filed a grievance for wrongful termination and plans to appeal the decision.