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Complaints about Salem selectman to be handled internally

SALEM - Recent staff complaints about the allegedly "hostile" behavior of Salem selectman Stephen Campbell will be handled internally, if possible, fellow selectmen said during Monday night's meeting.

Earlier this month, the four other board members had voted in favor of bringing in an external party or possibly even the county attorney to investigate reports of Campbell's behavior.

This week, however, selectmen chairman Patrick Hargreaves said inquiries made into the matter led the board to realize that hiring an outside party to investigate might be too costly. After a brief discussion, the board voted unanimously to suspend the outside investigation and instead attempt to address the problem internally.

"We did do our due diligence and look into this possibility," Hargreaves said. "But hiring someone else to investigate could cost us around $20,000."

As an alternative, town officials said, attempts will be made to resolve the conflict in house.

During the Feb. 11 board meeting, town manager Keith Hickey referred to a recent incident between Campbell and Human Resources director Molly McKean.

Officials said the incident in question happened in January, and all attempts to address the issue would happen before the public eye, as required by state law. In a memo McKean sent to Hickey on Feb. 1, McKean alleged that Campbell spoke "aggressively" to other employees over the course of an in-office discussion on a town-related matter. Hickey told the board earlier this month that he felt Campbell's "lack of respect" needed to be addressed.

During Monday night's meeting, selectman James Keller said he felt the process should remain transparent and the public should be kept informed of the process regardless of the methods used.

"I think it's only fair," Keller said. Hargreaves said Campbell and the town employees in question would be meeting sometime soon, though with school vacations taking place this week and some employees traveling out of town, next week would be the earliest time that's possible.

"Everyone can sit down and have a conversation and discuss how to handle all our differences," Hargreaves said.

Following the internal resolution, the board will discuss the outcome in public session during the March 11 meeting. Campbell didn't comment on the matter during Monday's meeting.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to accept $21,756 in FEMA reimbursement funds to cover damages from Hurricane Sandy. The October 2012 storm left the town with more than $29,000 in damages, and due to the federal declaration of an emergency, the town of Salem was eligible for 75 percent in reimbursements. The Salem Board of Selectmen will meet again March 4 at 7 p.m. in Salem Town Hall.

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