A Statement by the Town Hall Union President

Editor’s Note

The statement below is published at the request of Town Hall union president Mark Harper. Mr. Harper says it is the statement he intended to deliver to the Board of Selectmen on November 3, 2022, defending the Weston Tax Collector from unfounded accusations made by Selectwoman Amy Jenner.

Mr. Harper was not allowed to speak that evening, following a 2–1 vote on a motion to table his appearance, seconded and voted for by Ms. Jenner. An ethics complaint filed against Ms. Jenner for that vote remains unresolved.

Mr. Harper says his request to publish the statement comes from being medically unable to attend a subsequent Selectmen meeting, for which he apologized, and receiving no reply to requests in March and April to reschedule. On May 25 he advised the Selectmen that he was going to “Plan B.”

Good evening. As all if not most of you know, I am Mark Harper, Union President of the AFSCME Local 866.

Tonight I am here to represent our Tax Collector, Cathleen Neblett, after the attack made against her by Selectwoman Amy Jenner. This attack was an unjustified Letter to the Editor of Weston Today, written by Selectwoman Jenner, dated October 4, 2022, and published in the paper.

This letter was in response to an earlier article which mentioned that for almost two years Selectwoman Jenner had been in possession of restaurant equipment the town had liened for purposes of recovering back taxes.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves if they feel wronged or embarrassed by a news story. They do NOT have the right to lash out at others and falsely accuse them.

And that is exactly why I am here to address you. I speak on behalf of Cathleen Neblett. She has NEVER had the opportunity to be heard or defend herself after Selectwoman Jenner lashed out at her, falsely accused her, and publicly attacked her.

In my 50 plus years of working and living in the Town of Weston, NEVER has anything of this magnitude happened.

Let me first start off with a statement about our Tax Collector, Cathleen Neblett.

Cathleen has now worked for the Town of Weston for nearly 8 years. In this time she has been able to bring the collection rate from 92% to 99%. She has successfully completed 4 tax sales that have brought in an additional $3.2 million dollars in back taxes to the Weston taxpayers.

Cathleen is smart, hardworking and loyal to the Town of Weston and the taxpayers she works for. She is consistently fair and honest to everyone. The Union is proud to have her as part of the Weston’s incredible team of top notch employees.

In the original complaint filed by the Union on behalf of Cathleen Neblett, I requested that Selectwoman Jenner sincerely and properly apologize to Cathleen. I asked that, in her apology, she admit that she was wrong for her remarks about Cathleen. I asked that she request that the apology be published in Weston Today, just as her attack on Cathleen had been.

Instead, Selectwoman Jenner wrote her own version of what she called an apology. A copy was sent to me as Union President prior to its publication. The Union unanimously rejected the letter upon receipt.

The Union saw the letter as nothing more than a political platform for Selectwoman Jenner to present herself as a victim and some kind of guardian angel for the Town of Weston. NEVER in the letter does she admit her statements against Cathleen were completely false and unjustified. She said she “regrets” having criticized Cathleen, and writes it off to an error in judgement.

Selectwoman Jenner’s apology letter should have been about correcting her false accusations about Cathleen. It should have admitted that her accusations were based on no knowledge, no research, and no actual awareness of Cathleen’s job and performance. She should have admitted that it was written in anger, and intended to deflect attention from her own actions.

Instead, she chose to use her “apology” letter to promote herself.

And if her apology was sincere, why wouldn’t she pick up the telephone, call Cathleen, and tell her she was sorry?

For that matter, if Selectwoman Jenner had spoken with Cathleen before writing her accusatory letter, she would have learned these facts:

Tax Collector Neblett, who Selectwoman Jenner called “negligent,” filed a UCC Lien against Peter’s Market equipment in 2020.

Tax Collector Neblett, who Selectwoman Jenner said was derelict in duty, was instructed by her superior, the Town Administrator, to NOT seize the equipment at that time, even though the State Marshall had offered to do so. She was told to go after bank funds instead.

The bank execution failed to produce a return of the taxes owed, as accounts had already been swept by the owners. The opportunity to collect the $90,000 slipped by.

Cathleen had hired a collection agency to obtain funds.

Cathleen was never instructed by her superior at any time to go back to seize the equipment.

Cathleen was never informed that the store was closing.

Cathleen was never told where the equipment had been taken.

Instead of checking facts, Selectwoman Jenner took a dark and nasty turn, saying in her letter that “It was negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of the tax collector.”

In all of my 50 years of working for different town agencies, I have NEVER seen anything so vicious written about a town employee. In my opinion, as well as the opinions of other professionals I have spoken with, this was disgusting, slanderous and completely unprofessional. Having this published in the newspaper leaves an irreversible blemish on Tax Collector Cathleen Neblett’s career.

In addition, it is clearly stated in Article 18 of the Union Contract, which Selectwoman Jenner voted to ratify, that there are steps in place that MUST be followed if there is a complaint against or about an employee working for the Town of Weston. It is very clear that Selectwoman Jenner never did any research on the events that took place or the actions that were taken to collect any and all outstanding taxes owed.

Clearly, Selectwoman Jenner knows nothing of the Union Contract that she herself voted on to approve.

There are protocols and procedures in place that Selectwoman Jenner did not adhere to. Nor did she question any of Cathleen’s supervisors with regard to the events that took place.

And then there is this: basic human decency.

Selectwoman Jenner’s letter has caused irreparable damage to Cathleen personally and professionally. Is it any wonder that morale with most Town employees is at an all-time low? Is it a surprise that employees have left and others are in the process of leaving? Who wants to work in an environment where an official lashes out and writes such horrible untruths about an employee, and there are no repercussions?

I will leave it at this: our grievance stands. The Town Attorney and Town Administrator may think the alleged “apology” makes it moot, but it isn’t.

We demand a sincere, honest, truthful, and public apology. We demand that Ms. Jenner admit her accusations were baseless and false. We demand that your board adopt a policy that ensures this will never happen again.

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