PITTSTON — Last Wednesday, for the first time in three months, all three board seats were filled at the Board of Selectmen’s weekly meeting.

The town’s leadership has been in flux since March, when residents angry about the board’s decision to dismiss the longtime town clerk filed petitions calling for the ouster of the three-member board and two town employees.

The election of Vicki Kelley on June 4 completed the changeover, but the new board faces a long list of challenges, including a depleted office staff and almost $18,000 in unbudgeted bills and expenses.

Selectwoman Jane Hubert asked the town to be patient with the board during the transition and encouraged residents to stay active in town politics.

“The more involvement, the more they see what’s going on, the less there is to the imagination,” Hubert said. “Come and see what’s happening. Come help us out.”

The board plans to call a special town meeting, probably in July, to request additional money, restore funding cut at the Town Meeting in March and appropriate funds for unpaid bills.

The town owes more than $8,000 in unpaid legal fees accumulated in February and March by the last board.

Before residents found out about the legal bill, they voted to cut the $9,000 funding request for legal fees from this year’s budget, leaving the board unable to pay the bill.

Hubert said residents at a recent board meeting suggested billing the former board members $2,500 each for the outstanding amount.

That option isn’t off the table, she said. “That’s something we need to be working on and see where we want to go with that.”

Voters at the Town Meeting also eliminated $31,000 — the salary of the dismissed town clerk, Ann Chadwick — from the budget in an apparent protest about her firing.

The most recent outstanding bill — $9,000 in unemployment expenses through the end of the year — was announced by the board at its May 15 meeting.

The town can’t reveal to whom it’s owed, because unemployment files are confidential.

On top of the financial woes, the town clerk, treasurer and tax collector, Rose Webster, has resigned effective Wednesday to become Farmingdale’s town clerk.

She wouldn’t specify why she’s resigning, but she said people will be able to guess why.

“Everybody is trying to move forward,” she said.

Webster is one of the two employees whom residents tried recalling with petitions.

Webster and Natalie Jackson, assistant to the Board of Selectmen, are appointed, so they couldn’t be recalled.

The town was already down a staff member because Webster took over the town clerk duties on top of being treasurer and tax collector after Chadwick left.

Only a part-time clerk will remain, although Webster has volunteered to work in her off-hours to help Pittston during the transition.

The board met a few times last week to discuss and interview candidates to fill the position on an interim basis.

Hubert said she expects someone will be chosen by next week, but he or she probably won’t be able to start for another couple of weeks.

In the meantime, she said, someone in the Town Office will be able to step up and take over the town clerk, treasurer and tax collector duties until an interim replacement is found.

“We feel comfortable that the town will not be upset in the process of registering or licensing or anything like that,” Hubert said. “That was one of our primary concerns, that things keep on the way things have been.”

A town clerk is required to perform duties such as signing death certificates and issuing vehicle registrations and license plates. A treasurer is needed because Webster is the only one who can sign checks for the town.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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