AUBURN — The School Committee held an executive session Wednesday evening to discuss the rights and duties of its members after one of those members made a controversial comment to a job applicant.

School Committee member Robert Mennealy told the panel he had suggested to a woman who was applying for a coaching position that she sue the committee if not hired.

The committee spent more than an hour in executive session Wednesday with lawyer Elek Miller of Portland to discuss the issue.

Mennealy told the committee during Wednesday’s open meeting he had learned a coach, whom the School Committee declined to identify, had applied for a job with the athletic department and that people who had applied before her had been hired in other positions.

“I sent an email to (Superintendent) Katy (Grondin) and asked what was going on, and she told me it was not appropriate for School Committee members to discuss athletic department hirings,” Mennealy said. “I told her that was (nonsense) because I knew 40 or 50 times over the years that members of committees have made their preferences known to the athletic department.”

Chairman Tom Kendall told Mennealy he had “made statements that I felt were inappropriate.”

“Would you care to comment on them and your reasoning for making them?” Kendall asked Mennealy.

Mennealy replied he knew the coach was “the most qualified person for the job,” but knew that she could “sometimes be a little abrasive, like I can.”

“I did say (in an email) that if she didn’t get hired, I’d recommend she sue for discrimination,” Mennealy said, “and I think she’d win the lawsuit.”

Kendall said it was inappropriate for Mennealy to encourage an applicant to sue the committee on which he sits.

Mennealy said he made the comments as a private citizen and not in his capacity as a School Committee member.

“You tagged members of the public, School Committee members and the newspaper in the email,” Kendall said. “I think anybody who received that email would be under the impression it was coming as a member of the School Committee.”

“I think the fact the athletic department hired her backs up my point,” Mennealy said, “and I don’t regret making the comments.”

Kendall said before the executive session that Miller would be refreshing the committee on appropriate ways for members to represent themselves in public.

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