By Katy Savage
The Pittsfield town clerk has filed a second harassment complaint against a town official.
Town Clerk/Treasurer Tricia Fryer filed an initial complaint in October claiming she was harassed by Select Board member Ann Kuendig. Fryer’s second Jan. 21 complaint alleges she was harassed and bullied by Kuendig’s husband Herb, a town lister.
“Herb has been inappropriate as well as bullying in the months since I was elected,” Fryer said.
Fryer said Herb has created “feelings of an unsafe work environment.”
Fryer further explained in her complaint that Herb was in the town office speaking to Clairetta Corron, the wife of Select Board member Matt Corron, about a Select Board meeting that would occur the evening of Jan. 21. Fyer said in her complaint that she asked Herb to leave the town office, but he refused. She then threatened to call the police, she said.
“I was very surprised to learn of these allegations, which I believe have no basis in fact,” Herb said in a statement. “In this instance I was having a conversation with a visitor in the town office, which did not involve the town clerk at all.”
Fryer said in her complaint that this was one of multiple incidents in which she felt “uncomfortable” around Herb.
Herb was elected to the lister position in 2018. He’s one of two listers who are in the town office every Tuesday from 2-4 p.m.
Fryer requested that the Select Board ban Herb from being in the town office.
“His presence makes me uneasy, feel unsafe and unable to work productively,” Fryer said.
Fryer declined to say more in a later phone interview.
Fyer’s initial complaint in October was similar to her second complaint. Fyer claimed she was harassed by Ann Kuendig in her first complaint.
“Everything that comes out of my mouth or I do is challenged by her, with words, a roll of her eye or sighs,” Fryer wrote in that complaint. “I told her that we are never going to agree on things because I feel she is trying to set me up to fail.”
The board took a vote of “no confidence” in Kuendig at a special Select Board meeting Jan. 2. At its Jan. 21 meeting, the board voted 2-1 to seek outside legal advice regarding the complaint against Kuendig.
According to Vermont law, elected officials can’t be removed from office unless a town has provisions for removing an officer. Select Board chair Charles Piso said the board will look at what enforcement options are available.
“There’s some gray area,” Piso said, later adding, “There should be policies in place to deal with stuff like this.”
He said the town is eligible for three free legal hours under its insurance plan.
Kuendig called Piso’s attempt to seek an outside lawyer’s opinion “another attempt to circumvent town policies.” The board adopted conflicts of interest and ethical behavior policies last July to handle complaints against public officers. But Piso said the policies don’t address harassment.
The first complaint surfaced after Kuendig started questioning the town clerk about purchase orders, including the purchase of embroidered t-shirts for the town’s two constables and a $1,600 laptop purchase.
“The facts are that out of two years of me signing orders, I questioned two orders,” Kuendig said.
Piso said it’s not the fact that Kuendig is asking questions about the orders, but the way she’s asking that’s problematic. “It’s about harassing the town clerk. It’s about the way the questioning is done,” said Piso after the meeting.
Piso said attempts to resolve the matter through executive session have been unsuccessful. “It’s continuing to go on and on and on since the the complaint process started,” Piso said. “I’m obligated to protect the town from liability.”
A town attorney has sat in on board meetings since the initial complaint at Piso’s request. The board has racked up about $2,000 in attorney fees so far due to the complaint.
Both Piso and Fryer are up for re-election in March.
Piso said he’s “likely to” run again, but might not.
“My frustration level with this is over the top,” he said, mentioning the incident and FEMA paperwork he’s undertaken due to a flood in the spring.
The board did not take any action on the second complaint, following advice from the town attorney.