Rumored cuts to the Youth Commission created unrest between members of the Youth Commission board and the town council.
Youth commission members, parents and area students filled the town council meeting on Nov. 22 to show support for Youth Commission Director Elizabeth Lee after hearing rumors the position would be cut from the 2012 budget.
An email sent to a few Youth Commission members on Nov. 18 insinuated the town council was looking into a personnel issue within the Youth Commission board.
Westport resident Katherine Cramer opened the discussion, speaking in favor of retaining the Youth Commission director.
“The children of the county are already taking budget cuts,” Cramer said. “I think firing the youth commission director at this point would be a very bad move in the wrong direction.”
Westport Town Supervisor Daniel Connell interjected, stating the rumor stemmed from a discussion held during an executive session concerning Youth Commission personnel. The comments were not meant for public disclosure but Connell said they had nothing to do with the possible discharge of Lee.
“There was a discussion in executive session of personnel. Apparently someone decided to go outside of executive session with this discussion, and we have a room full of people,” Connell said.
The position of Youth Commission director has been listed in the 2012 Westport budget at $7,000, as part of the $30,000 Youth Commission budget. Connell said the board examined the Youth Commission budget as they had any other town department, but because of information disclosed by a board member, the public was misinformed.
“The fact is there is nothing on the table to remove, displace, or cut back the salary of the youth director,” Connell said.
Members of the audience, parents, Youth Commission members and the general public spoke to the board for more than an hour, discussing the relationship between the town council and the Youth Commission.
“It does seem there is a lot of tension when the Youth Commission comes in to the board,” Youth Commission board member and Bridgette Blemel said after the meeting. “I'm glad the board got to hear from the community and hear what the people feel.”
Connell said after the meeting he believed everyone at the meeting was given a chance to voice their opinion, but he said the whole situation could have been avoided if information said during an executive session wasn’t divulged to the public and misinterpreted.
“I think its unfortunate when board can’t go into executive session and the outcome are those discussions are repeated at a public meeting,” Connell said.
Connell said he hoped a similar issue wouldn’t occur in the future and felt it was unfortunate the children of the community had to see their superiors in such a ways.