RUTLAND TOWN – The future of the suspended Rutland Town administrator’s job remains a mystery.
The Selectboard met Wednesday night in executive session for about 35 minutes before emerging without taking any action.
Joe Zingale, who was placed on administrative leave last week, has said he was given a letter from the town stating that the special Selectboard meeting Wednesday night was set for his termination hearing.
Zingale said he did not attend the Wednesday night session on the advice of his attorney, Paul Gillies.
The board met briefly in open session, long enough for Josh Terenzini, the panel’s chairman, to hand over that role to fellow board member John Paul Faignant.
Terenzini said Faignant, an attorney and longtime board member, had more experience handling such matters that would come in the closed-door session.
The only person in the meeting room with the five-member board for the closed-door session was town Police Chief Ed Dumas, who departed the meeting after only a couple of minutes.
After the board emerged from executive session, Faignant did take questions, but the answer to each one was the same, “No comment.”
Faignant wouldn’t say if Zingale was still employed by the town, remained suspended or had been terminated. Faignant said he could not comment on a personnel matter.
Zingale, reached Wednesday night at his home after the meeting, said he wasn’t sure what was going on, adding he needed to talk to his attorney to get the details. Gillies, the attorney representing Zingale, did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting either.
“I guess I have to wait and see myself what went on,” Zingale said.
He said as far as he knew he was still employed by the town, not having received any word he was terminated and with no public action from the board at the meeting.
Zingale did say his attorney sent two letters to the town’s attorney, Kevin Brown, earlier Wednesday. On Tuesday, Zingale said, Gillies sent a proposed settlement offer to the town’s attorney, and he believed the letters Wednesday were following up on that.
The board had its regular meeting Tuesday night and met in executive session for a “personnel” matter for a little more than an hour and came out without taking action. Zingale had said prior to Tuesday’s meeting that he believed the board would be discussing his settlement offer in that executive session.
After the back-to-back nights of executive sessions, the board has not taken any public vote on Zingale’s status with the town.
The board voted to go into executive session Wednesday before soliciting any public comment from two people who attended the meeting to offer support for Zingale.
Speaking outside the meeting room while the board was in closed session, Larry Gold said he came to the meeting to talk about his experience working with Zingale over a span of about 15 years. Gold owns Computer-EZ and provides computer support services to the town.
“I do business with the town, and he’s been my primary contact,” Gold said of Zingale. “I just came to point out that it’s been a good relationship, he’s always been fair, easy to deal with, always looking to make sure things are done proper. That’s all.”
Gold said he wasn’t sure what led up to the meeting Wednesday night, though he had talked to Zingale, who told him there was an issue between Zingale and a board member. “Exactly what the issue is, I don’t know,” Gold said.
Details of what led to Zingale’s suspension have not been publicly released, with board members offering almost no information beyond “no comment.”
News broke last week that Zingale had been suspended. He has previously said Terenzini came to the town offices last week to hand him a disciplinary letter for his personnel file.
Zingale said the two had a heated verbal exchange and Terenzini then told him he was suspended and to leave the building.
The next day, Zingale said, he received a letter from the town stating he was suspended with pay pending the termination hearing scheduled for Wednesday night.
Mark Courcelle said he attended the meeting Wednesday night to offer words of support for Zingale. Courcelle spoke outside the closed-door session, saying he was the chair of the town’s Planning Commission that first hired Zingale for a town job more than 30 years ago.
Zingale was brought in to work part time helping the Planning Commission deal with a rush of development in the community, Courcelle said. Over the years, Zingale stayed employed by the town, serving most of the next three decades in a role as town administrator, though the titles have varied.
“Truthfully, I thought he did a good job, and his computer skills kind of kept the town in the 21st century as far as I was concerned,” Courcelle said. “I just thought I’d come to support him.”
Asked about his thoughts on the turmoil surrounding Zingale’s job status, Courcelle said, “It’s hard to say. I don’t know any of the background, what started the chain of the events.”