SoS investigating town clerk
Peterborough’s town clerk drama has prompted the Secretary of State’s Office to start its own review of the operations inside town hall.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said Monday he recently met with Town Clerk Linda Guyette, Town Moderator L. Phillips Runyon, and State Rep. Peter Leishman to discuss how the Peterborough officials will conduct the coming general election in light of the hostile workplace investigation.
“We want to make sure all the election officials are in place and we do what needs to be done to run a smooth election,” Scanlan said.
Guyette was investigated this summer due to allegations she created a hostile work environment inside town hall, and that she acted unprofessionally toward members of the public. Guyette’s attorney, Anne Rice, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Guyette is an elected official and charged with running the elections in town. Runyon said he met with Scanlan out of concern that the coming November general election could be impacted by the issues surrounding Guyette.
“I don’t want to have anything that is going on in the town clerk’s office to impact the way the election is run,” Runyon said.
Part of the concern is that a staffer who complained about Guyette’s behavior is now processing absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are the domain of the town clerk, even though she has not processed them since July, according to town officials.
“She does have oversight of that process,” said Deputy Town Administrator Nicole McStay.
McStay said that despite the personnel issues inside of the town clerk’s office, the professional duties and legal obligations are currently being met. Scalan said Guyette being able to perform her legally mandated duties is a point of interest for his office.
“There is also concern in the town that the clerk may be somehow constrained from doing her job,” Scanlan said.
Runyon said Monday he is not sure if Guyette has control over the absentee ballot information, but legally she ought to have that control.
“If it’s not the case then I want it to be the case,” Runyon said.
The staffer in the clerk’s office who is processing absentee ballots is one of about a dozen people who complained about Guyette’s behavior, McStay said. The absentee ballots are secure and Guyette is not being barred from doing her job, McStay said.
Guyette’s alleged behavior, as detailed in the report, includes obscene outbursts, bullying of town residents seeking services, and exposing several people to COVID-19 after she had tested positive in June. Guyette was also reported for making an indirect violent threat against Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett.
The select board is set to discuss the report, though the agenda of the board’s October meeting has not been posted. Since Guyette is elected it is unclear what authority the board has to act in this matter.
Leishman did not respond Monday to a request for comment. In a Sept. 14 letter he sent to Scanlan, Leishman accuses the town administration of trying to pressure Guyette into stepping down.
“What is most troubling to me is Ms. Guyette informed me that the town administrator told her the report detailing the complaints would not be released if Ms. Guyette resigned immediately,” Leishman wrote. “When she denied the allegations and refused to resign, the investigation was released so that a newspaper article would appear the day of the state primary when all eyes would be on Ms. Guyette as she carried out her statutory duties as town clerk.
Scanlan is reviewing all of the facts he can gather and he plans to issue his finding soon.
The report was commissioned by town administration and conducted by employees of the Leddy Group, a human resources firm. The town paid approximately $3,500 for the investigation and report. Guyette is paid a little more than $69,000 a year in salary.