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Norwich loses another key town employee due to discontent

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2022 1:12:07 PM
Modified: 11/24/2022 2:48:20 PM

NORWICH — The town — still without an acting town manager — will now be without a zoning administrator as well, as Planning and Zoning Coordinator Aaron DeNamur has tendered his resignation.

In a letter to the Selectboard earlier this month, DeNamur attributed his departure to the mistreatment of town employees by “a very abusive and outspoken group of residents” who have made the town office “an incredibly hostile environment.”

DeNamur, whose last day of employment will be Friday, admonished the residents for their “inappropriate and distressing” comments toward staff during public meetings and rebuked the Selectboard for failing to defend staff during these situations.

DeNamur indicated his support for former Town Manager Rod Francis, who parted ways with the town last month after a challenging nine-month tenure.

A number of residents critical of Francis’ management and communication style frequently blamed him for the recent departure of town employees, including publicly during Selectboard meetings.

In his letter, DeNamur warned that the work environment being fostered by this behavior is tarnishing Norwich’s reputation with prospective employees.

“Public servants throughout the state communicate with each other and know through their circles what is going on in other municipalities around Vermont,” DeNamur wrote. “The conduct of town residents, including some who serve on town committees even, is very alarming. It will now only become more difficult for the town to find quality staff.”

Though DeNamur sent the Selectboard his letter on November 9, town officials did not publicize this information until this week, when the letter appeared in the board’s meeting agenda packet.

At a selectboard meeting on Tuesday, resident Christopher Verges said he attended a Development Review Board meeting last week to discuss his application for a boundary line change, only to learn that DeNamur had resigned.

The Selectboard is in the process of developing a budget for the next fiscal year with the help of an interim finance director and a new police chief who is still familiarizing himself with the board’s budget expectations.

These vacancies “will bring a lot of things to a halt,” said Development Review Board Chairperson Arline Rotman.

Rotman noted that the Development Review Board cannot operate until an acting zoning administrator is appointed, as the board depends upon the administrator’s knowledge of the applications to inform their decisions.

It is possible for the planning commission to nominate an acting administrator to issue building permits.

The Planning Commission is tasked with nominating a candidate to the Selectboard for appointment as an interim zoning coordinator.

Chairwoman Jaci Allen said the commission met last week to discuss the situation and plans to schedule a special meeting next week to consider next steps of action.

Residents affiliated with the Stand Up For Norwich group, in letters and in public comments to the board, said they were “puzzled” by DeNamur’s criticism of the residents, given that the residents were trying to “protect the staff” from the Selectboard and town manager.

“It was town staff who came to us in tears or in frustration about the way they were being treated by the town manager that caused our continued involvement in situations,” resident Amy Stringer stated in a letter to the board. “We would have strongly preferred not to be involved in. We spoke up only to protect those town employees — we had nothing personally to gain from those interactions.”

The Selectboard voted unanimously on Tuesday to “begin interviewing for the interim town manager position,” following a nonpublic executive session to discuss an initial round of applicants.

Selectboard Chairwoman Marcia Calloway did not respond to a request for an interview.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at (603)727-3216 or at padrian@vnews.com.


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