On January 27, 2016

Neisner files suit against town

By Stephen Seitz

KILLINGTON — Melvin Neisner, Jr.’s dissatisfaction with former town manager Seth Webb has not abated, as evidenced by a lawsuit Neisner filed against the town in the closing days of 2015.

Neisner is asserting that Webb and the town’s board of selectmen have bungled the use of town money in recent years, and he is seeking, according to the suit originally filed in Rutland County Superior Court, “a permanent injunction against the town for using restricted funds for daily activities and to balance its cash shortfalls,” as well as refunds for “waste and misused funds with interest.”

Patty McGrath, who chairs the Killington board of selectmen, said she was at a loss to explain why Neisner would do this.

“Mr. Neisner is very unhappy with the town and with Seth Webb,” she said. “This suit is without merit and makes no sense on its face.”

Specifically, Neisner, who did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story, claims that Webb was not hired through proper procedure; that he engaged in abusive behavior toward town employees; that he was overpaid; that he hired a friend and paid her a full-time salary even after her position was reduced to part-time; and that he overcharged residents on payments for a sewer bond, among other things.

Webb could not be reached for comment.

“I vehemently disagree with Mr. Neisner’s assertion that Seth was incompetent,” McGrath said. “I found him to be very competent. Mr. Neisner knew Seth was leaving, so this action makes no sense.”

Neisner’s beef with Webb goes back to at least 2011, when he challenged the selectmen not to promote Webb from economic development director to town manager. In an August 20 letter from that year, Neisner put himself forward for the position.

“I believe that placing Mr. Webb in the town manager’s office would give short shrift to both positions to the detriment of the town as he would be unable to perform satisfactorily in either based upon time demands,” Neisner wrote.

Neisner wasn’t finished. In 2012, he filed a petition article to have Killington drop the town manager’s position in favor of governance by the board of selectmen. That proposal was soundly rejected by a vote of 238 to 81.

“I don’t have any problems with Seth as a person,” Neisner said back then. “I think the town manager form of government is great. My belief is that we could have hired a manager for less money and with more experience. I don’t think the board took the time to look at other people.”

In its response to Neisner’s suit, the town asked that the lawsuit be transferred to federal district court, which was granted. The case has been transferred to Brattleboro and will be heard by Judge J. Garvan Murtha. The court administrator in Rutland said they were waiting for Neisner’s response. The case currently has no action scheduled.

The town, meanwhile, is still looking for someone to take the town manager’s reins. Currently, planning and zoning administrator Dick Horner is filling in.

“We’re making progress,” McGrath said. “We’re looking into several qualified candidates, and we hope to have someone in before the end of February.”

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