Published DateBy Erik Eisele
JACKSON — The alleged firing of the Jackson town office administrator last week is provoking a backlash aimed at unseating current selectboard chair Jerry Dougherty.
Former board member and current candidate Gino Funicella and former selectman Dave Mason have come out strong in defense of Diane Falcey, the town's administrator, who was fired a week ago for undisclosed reasons. Funicella sent out an email on Wednesday announcing a protest in support of Falcey at Thursday's selectmen's meeting.
"If you feel as I and many others do that Diane Falcey has served our town well and been an exemplary employee for the past four years, your presence will be a statement in itself," Funicella said in the email. "I encourage you to stay for at least the beginning of the meeting to voice your concerns in public comment."
But details around Falcey's alleged termination are murky.
"She is no longer an employee of the town of Jackson," Dougherty said on Wednesday, but he would not say if she was fired or resigned. He would not get into details because of confidentiality concerns. "There really isn't anything we can respond to," he said. "It's a personnel matter."
Falcey too was unwilling to discuss the situation in depth. "Yes, I was fired," she said, but "I'm going to be very limited in what I can say, based on the advice of my attorney."
The dispute dates back a year. Last February Falcey said she filed a grievance alleging Dougherty threatened her, bullied her and discriminated against her based on her gender.
"I can't really get any details," she said, but it was the threatening that concerned her most.
Dougherty confirmed the complaint. It was then investigated by an attorney who specializes in labor law. That attorney filed a report with the town, but town officials refuse to release it because of confidentiality concerns. Falcey has not seen the report, according to both her and Dougherty.
Falcey was told her complaint was found to have been "submitted in good faith," but Dougherty was found not to have violated her rights.
Dougherty said the document is required to be kept confidential, but any negative information about a public official would have to be made public. No information has since been made public.
Falcey kept working, but she said in the months following she became the subject of retaliation. She raised her concerns privately with board members, she said in a letter she read into the minutes at a meeting at the start of January, but that got her nowhere so she took her complaints public.
Near the end of the month she was put on administrative leave. She was fired several days later.
Now she is considering suing the town, she said. "If they don't give me my job back I will have to."
Funicella and Mason, meanwhile, have been raising her case to point to what they see as problems at town hall, problems they blame Dougherty for, ranging from a misuse of non-public sessions to abuse of power. Mason published a letter in Wednesday's Conway Daily Sun in Falcey's defense. Funicella signed up to run for selectman and urged residents to protest.
"This is something going on independent of me," Falcey said. "I'm not encouraging any of it; I want my job back."
Dougherty, meanwhile, had another take.
"Politics is politics," he said. "I'm not going to engage in it because I don't see how it benefits me or the town."