Joe Powers was re-appointed to another three-year term on Tuesday night by a close vote of the , with the dissenters calling into question the review process and whether it adequately examined what they called ongoing issues in the clerk's office.
The vote, which was required at least 30 days before Powers' current term ends in September, was 4-3 and came after failed attempts by some of the councilors to either postpone a decision indefinitely until more information could be made available or to extend Powers' contract for just 60 days to buy time.
"I regret that I had to make that vote," said Councilor-at-Large Leland Dingee, who along with John Mullaney and Henry Joyce sided against the appointment. "The vote was taken under duress to be honest with you."
Following a unanimous favorable recommendation from the Committee on Personnel Issues, Powers' re-appointment appeared ready to pass quickly through the council when Dingee asked whether his review of Powers' performance submitted earlier this year had been digested by the committee, saying that he "would not feel comfortable" voting until he learned more about human resource issues in the clerk's office.
"My conscience won't let me vote positively on this until my concerns are addressed," Dingee said.
Dingee declined to be more specific about the "other issues" that he and Mullaney referred to during the meeting. Aside from HR concerns, Mullaney mentioned that Powers had been asked to perform a task he did not normally perform and the clerk responded that his job description should be changed.
The committee, Mullaney said, "has not investigated as thoroughly as it could."
Sean Powers, chair of the personnel committee, dismissed that argument and questioned why the concerns of the councilors were not brought up before Tuesday. He also said that the job description review was tabled earlier that night so that it could be gone over completely.
"We conducted a thorough review," Power said. "The performance of the Town Clerk was taken into consideration."
Powers, who was not in attendance during the meeting because he is completing work-related certification this week, is a Braintree native and is serving for the second time as Town Clerk.
He was also clerk from 2000-2003 and ran for mayor in 2007. In between, Powers worked for several years in the communications division of Bank of New York Mellon. Powers has served as chair of the School Committee, was the Town Moderator and was a member of the Board of Selectmen.
The councilors were told not to discuss the HR issues by Town Solicitor Carolyn Murray, Dingee said. Dingee also said he was told that the council could not broach the subject with Powers in an executive session because only the human resources department could deal with it.
According to Massachusetts General Law, among the 10 purposes for which a public body may vote to hold an executive session is "to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual."