Scituate selectmen have been asked to respond to a complaint from the Scituate Mariner newspaper that the town did not follow open meeting procedure when voting in an 11.48 percent salary increase for Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi.
Vinchesi is scheduled to receive a salary increase from $126,480 in Fiscal Year 2011 to $141,000 in the second half of FY12, and another 2 percent for FY13 to $143, 820.
According to Vinchesi’s contract, she will receive another pay increase in FY14 to $147,416, and in FY15 to $151,838. Fiscal years 2016 and 2017 have yet to be decided and will be negotiated at a later date.
Selectmen voted for the increases in executive session in December of 2011.
Town Counsel Jim Toomey said the town was following proper procedures at the time when selectmen voted for the contract in executive session.
The Attorney General’s office issued a ruling mandating that negotiation finalizations occur in open session after Scituate’s had already taken place.
Town officials then voted for the increase in an April open session once they realized the ruling change. Non-union contract changes will be voted on in open session in the future, Toomey said.
Although Scituate officials are hoping to move on, the news of the salary hike has caused ire amongst some residents.
Joseph Gibbons, who lives on Gannet Road, spoke during the Walk-In period of the selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday night, admonishing the town for the salary hike.
“In these difficult economic times, the Board of Selectmen - one of their most important functions is hiring, firing, and review of the town administrator, and I feel, as a resident, that this board has dropped the ball at this time,” he said.
Furthermore, Gibbons said the town lacked leadership in implementing Open Meeting law when voting in the salary increase.
“I object to those comments and I find them offensive,” said selectman John Danehey, saying that he supported Vinchesi and the salary changes.
Selectmen chair Tony Vegnani said the selectment voted for the salary increase after realizing Vinchesi was paid far below market rates.
“We looked at the pay of Town Administrators in our area, about a dozen different positions…and found she was underpaid. We brought her up to the market rate for that position. She’s not the highest paid, she’s in the middle in terms of people in this general vicinity,” Vegnani said.
Furthermore, although Vinchesi did not receive a formal review from selectmen, all selectmen felt she was doing an excellent job and was meeting her goals overall.
“Although the percentage looks like a high market increase, we would have to hire someone different at the same market rate for a lesser value [had we not given her the raise],” Vegnani said.
Although the Attorney General’s office has a copy of the complaint, it is not filed for review with the office at this time.
The Mariner must wait for a response from the town regarding the violation. At that time, the Mariner will have an additional 60 days to seek further review by the Attorney General by filing an additional complaint with the office.