Given to the Town Board at a workshop on Monday, March 20, 2001

By Jim Baker

I propose a new policy for consideration by the Kent Town Board. It is current practice for the Board to discuss certain personnel matters in executive session. I suggest extending this policy to include volunteers. Permit me to explain why I believe there is a need for this proposed change in current policy:

Volunteers are of considerable value to Kent. Let me give examples from my own experience. The Kent Recycling Center provides an invaluable service for over 400 families in Kent and has operated entirely with unpaid volunteers since 1-91. At no cost to the Kent taxpayer we have developed for the town a $110, 000 parking lot and a $40,000 building. We have the potential to furnish this building with thousands of dollars worth of equipment and other improvements. Other volunteers are working to restore the fire tower on top of Mt Nimhan. Volunteers have been working for many years on Planning and Zoning Boards, on Park and Water District Committees and in the Recreation Department. We are all in need of protection from one current Board practice.

I have received permission from the injured party to give the following example demonstrating how current policy can harm a well intentioned volunteer.

Recently the planning board recommended a Kent resident to fill one of its vacant seats. The town board, at its last meeting, declined to accept this recommendation. Their right to do so is not here contested. The precise problem arose when one member of the Board decided to explain his reasons for voting against accepting the volunteers services. He cited facts that were not true and made inferences about the character of the volunteer based on those erroneous facts. The potential volunteer found herself publicly accused of doing things she did not do and then characterized as having a personality which she certainly does not have. Moreover, although these charges were made in public; she was denied the opportunity to answer them in public. She has withdrawn her application.

Why would any resident want to take the risk of helping their town if Kent's Board continues to reserve the right to humiliate them in public, on false grounds or fair, and grants them no right of self defense? As possible remedy I suggest the Board consider adopting a policy similar to the following:

"Statements critical of an individual volunteer, or candidate for a volunteer position, shall be made only in an executive session where the individual has been invited to be present and given the opportunity to answer the concerns of the Board. "

If no action is taken and the right of a Board member to publicly humiliate volunteers is continued; Kent will most certainly reduce the number of future volunteers; and, let me be very frank and very personal ... it may also reduce the number of current volunteers as well.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005