By Ray Carbone
WILMOT – One of the four employees who recently resigned from the town’s employ said that she planned to file a complaint with the NH Commission on Human Rights Commission over alleged health-related discrimination.
In her resignation letter submitted to the board of selectmen dated Aug. 22, Nicole (Nikki) Arsenault, who served as an administrative assistant and land/property use assistant, wrote that she was in the process of submitting a discrimination complaint with the state agency. She said it was related to how she felt she was treated by Nancy Bates, the town administrator, after missing time due to an illness.
‘There is bullying, gossiping, gaslighting, abuse of power and double standards enforcing town policy going on in this office…’
Nicole Arsenault, former town employee
“I’ve missed several days of work over the past month,” the letter reads. “I have become aware that I am being treated differently due to the fact that Ms. Bates is ‘angry’ with me when I miss work due to illness.”
In a note attached to the letter, Arsenault recorded discussing the issue in an April meeting with Bates. At that time, the assistant wrote, Bates admitted to being angry about the missed hours, adding that it was “not right, but that’s how she (Bates) felt.”
Arsenault’s letter stated that she was resigning because she’d recently approached the town administrator again about the perceived problem, but Bates denied ever admitted that she was angry.
“It was my mistake to not speak up sooner for myself and for those around me, to demand that inappropriate behavior be stopped,” Arsenault wrote to the three-member board of selectmen.
“There is bullying, gossiping, gaslighting, abuse of power and double standards enforcing town policy going on in this office by the town administrator and it is unacceptable,” she added.
At the September 5 selectmen’s meeting, Rhonda Gauthier, the long-time town clerk/tax collector, and her assistant, Kathy LaVallee, announced that they were resigning their positions effective Dec. 31. In her resignation letter to the board, Gauthier wrote that Bates “fired or bullied all employees.”
But Nick Brodich, chairman of the selectmen, has said that although the board was aware of tensions between Gauthier and Bates, it didn’t feel that they were severe enough to take action.
In a response letter to Gauthier, the selectmen criticized her brief appearance at the Sept. 5 meeting as lacking “substance.” It also said that the charges directed at both Bates and the board (for allegedly ignoring ongoing problems) were “serious and hurtful,” and that, by refusing to meet with the board and Bates, Gauthier’s actions were “as disrespectful as cowardly… (and) completely unbecoming an elected town official.”
Late last week, Gauthier said, “I really want to move on,” adding that “Nancy (Bates) did many little things over a period of time… (but) I resigned because I was tired of seeing it happen to other and nothing being said or done about it. I did not want to be part of that environment any longer.”
This story first appeared in the InterTown Record weekly newspaper, published in Sutton, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, December 4, 2018.