Castleton manager says problems started this year
By Darren Marcy
Staff Writer | October 10,2013
CASTLETON — Town Manager Charles Jacien, at the center of a recent firestorm that has divided town officials, said Wednesday that in his 6½-year tenure he’s never had problems with Select Board members until this year.
“I’ve always received favorable work evaluations, received raises accordingly,” he said. “Never a bad word said by any official, and I’m not too sure about the sour grapes by current officials and why they feel such.”
Jacien sent a letter to the Select Board on Sept. 30 offering to resign if they would pay a year’s salary with benefits including medical, sign a confidentiality agreement and promise to give a positive reference. He wrote that such an agreement could avoid a long and costly lawsuit.
Jacien is six months into a three-year contract he signed in the spring.
The board held a closed-door session about the letter Monday. No action was taken.
The letter, which Jacien said he sent only to board members, has been spreading via email; a copy was also sent anonymously to the Rutland Herald by postal mail.
The letter results from an alleged public accusation by a selectman that Jacien ignored a Select Board directive to pursue money for the renovation of the old town office building at 556 Main St. He said he’s always received good feedback from board members and he’s not sure where the current acrimony has come from.
“If you look at my service to the town objectively, those kinds of comments are asinine,” Jacien said Tuesday.
Select Board Chairman Thomas Ettori had only positive things to say about Jacien.
“I have no problem with Charles,” he said. “I am satisfied with his job performance.”
Two selectmen elected in March have had issues with Jacien.
Selectman John Hale, who Jacien accused of making slanderous comments about him during a Castleton Historical Society meeting, chose not to respond when contacted Wednesday.
“I think that all things considered I’m not going to comment,” Hale said. “I don’t want to inflame the situation and I’d rather not. The town needs all the peace it can get right now.”
But, Selectman Wenger Rehlen, while measuring his words, said there are issues between Jacien and some board members.
“There’s threats of litigation and (accusations of) slander, so I have to be really careful here,” Rehlen said. “My concern is right now, things are pretty contentious.”
He did say he has issues with Jacien.
“I think he doesn’t like to be challenged,” Rehlen said. “Charles likes to run the show. I want to make a difference and I don’t trust having one source of information.”
Rehlen said people likely believe he is the one who leaked Jacien’s letter to the board.
“I didn’t do it,” Rehlen said. “I’m not a fan of Charles and people are going to think I did it. But I didn’t do this one.”
Jacien said he’s brought in about $2.5 million in grants for sidewalks, transportation, a byway program and the police department.
He said time will tell what happens, but for now, he’s moved on.
“We get on with our business,” Jacien said. “The board can act or react as they wish. We’re continuing work.”
He said he’s not bothered by criticism of his efforts by board members in their official capacity.
“Individual Select Board members have a right to say whatever they need to say about employees,” Jacien said. “When they step out of that role as a Select Board member and criticize my job for selfish reasons ... there’s no reason to criticize my job in looking out for the entire town.”
Rehlen said Castleton’s government has to get on with the town’s work.
“This is such an emotionally loaded thing,” Rehlen said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to work this all out.”
Jacien and Ettori said town work continues despite the rift.
“At this point in time, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Jacien has started no legal action,” Ettori said.
As for the board, Ettori said he hopes members can maintain professionalism.
“Hopefully, we can handle it,” he said. “I may have to have a few more executive sessions. I’m in hopes we can make it work without looking for outside help.”
That outside help could come in the form of a mediator or a training session for board members and employees, said Steven Jeffrey, executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
“We do some trainings for boards and town managers to help them define their roles for those bodies and their legal responsibilities under the statutes,” Jeffrey said. “We’ve referred towns to mediators to resolve issues before they become lawsuits.”