County Chairman John Alley Quits Retirement Board

By JONATHAN BURKE

Under pressure, John Alley this week resigned his position as a member of the Dukes County Contributory Retirement System.

"It's all foolishness and I resigned. I didn't attend enough meetings over the course of the three or four-year span," he said.

Following his reappointment to the retirement board at last week's meeting of the county commissioners, Mr. Alley, county chairman, came under fire from Noreen Flanders, retirement board chairman and county treasurer.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the county board, Ms. Flanders wrote, "I understand from the minutes that Chairman Alley brought forward for consideration an appointment not listed on the agenda. Had I realized this retirement board appointment would be discussed, I would not have left the meeting."

She continues, "As Chairman Alley knew, following receipt of the audit at the Jan. 14, 2003 retirement board meeting, his resignation was requested." Ms. Flanders stated that Mr. Alley missed 29 per cent of of the board's meetings from 1997 to 2001.

She wrote: "His actions at the commissioners' meeting interfered with proper process and suggests the possibility of an ethics violation since he receives a stipend for board membership," she said.

Mr. Alley has responded that several of his absences were the result of sickness. He noted that he missed six meetings due to a hip replacement.

Yesterday, however, the county chairman said he was through with the retirement board. "The chemistry wasn't there," he concluded.

The county commission has struggled to keep its head above water since Carol Borer abruptly departed as county manager at year's end. But it continues to be tied up by a variety of legal matters and it needs to find a replacement for Mrs. Borer.

On Wednesday evening, the airport commission, a county body, entered executive session to discuss a lawsuit filed by the airport manager and his assistant against the airport commission. William Weibrecht and Sean Flynn filed the lawsuit, charging that the airport board and the county are not paying them their promised wages.

"It's a breach of contract case. Sean and Bill and the airport commission entered into an employment agreement, and by that contract the airport commission became obligated to pay Bill and Sean the contracted amount. The airport commission breached that contract by paying a significant amount less than the contract provided," said Harry Beach, the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Mr. Beach, whose office is in Norwood, said the county agreed to pay Mr. Weibrecht $86,000 and Mr. Flynn $67,000, but is in reality paying Mr. Weibrecht approximately $74,000 and Mr. Flynn about $55,000.

George Balco, chairman of the airport commission, said the airport commission agreed to the pay grades following a thorough analysis of the industry.

"They were up for a new contract and we did some analysis and found out what were appropriate salary levels and needless to say they are doing a very good job, so we put them in for appropriate salary levels," he said.

In response to the legal complaint, the airport commission filed an answer and a third-party complaint that names the county as a third-party defendant. In its pleadings, the airport commission admits that it agreed to pay its manager and assistant manager the alleged amounts and further admits that it is not paying those amounts.

The airport commission claims that it is not paying the contracted amounts because the county, which controls the airport commission's purse, is withholding the necessary funds.

County officials did not offer any real explanation this week as to why Mr. Weibrecht and Mr. Flynn are not being paid their contracted amounts. Dianne Powers, acting county manager since Mrs. Borer's departure, said it was not clear to her.

"We're trying to see if we can settle that situation. It is proceeding slowly but everyone hopes that we can settle it," she said this week.

Yesterday, John Alley, chairman, said he expected a settlement soon. He said he and Mr. Balco have met and discussed the matter informally.

"It seems like there are a lot of areas we can agree on, and I think that a settlement can be put toward both boards," said Mr. Alley.

The airport litigation is not the only legal matter that is occupying the county's time. Marsha Smolev, executive assistant to the county manager, is on paid administrative leave pending the resolution of her claims of harassment and abuse by Mrs. Borer, and, according to a story in the Cape Cod Times, by one of the commissioners.

Neither Ms. Smolev nor her attorney have spoken to any details of the complaint and with Mrs. Borer gone, the matter, whatever it is, could be moot.

The county's legal dealings with Mrs. Borer are similarly incomplete. Following an investigation into the propriety of approximately $22,000 in severance pay, the county commissioners voted to ask Mrs. Borer to return some $4,874.

Though she had announced in November that she would take a buyout offered by the state, Mrs. Borer had agreed to stay on as interim county manager. But when the county's finance advisory board questioned her severance payments, Mrs. Borer did an abrupt about-face. On the last day of the year, she cleaned out her office and told the chairman of the county commissioners that she would not be returning to work.

The county commission appointed its freshmen members, Paul Strauss and Nelson Smith, to investigate Ms. Borer's pay package. Last week, the commission accepted their settlement recommendation.

"I wrote a letter to Carol and gave her the official vote that was taken at the county commission at the last meeting and asked her to contact the acting county manager if the settlement agreement ... was satisfactory to her," Mr. Alley said yesterday.

Mr. Alley said that the search to replace Mrs. Borer is proceeding. "At last count there were 46 applications for the county manager position," he said. The deadline for applications is Feb. 14.

A search committee made up of various Island officials held two meetings this week. Marie Allen, chairman, said it was too early to discuss the substance of the meetings.