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Paonia trustee given warning for conduct

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At the Nov. 14 board meeting, Paonia trustee Suzanne Watson received a public warning for violation of the board's Code of Conduct. The alleged violation was based on the results of an investigation into a Sept. 6 letter by town administrator Ken Knight containing three separate complaints against Watson and signed by four town employees (see "Paonia Board to Consider Actions Against Trustee in the Nov. 1 North Fork Times section).

A report by personnel committee members Chelsea Bookout and Karen Budinger, who investigated the allegations, resulted in no action against Watson on two of the complaints, and recommended a public warning based on the third complaint.

While Watson couldn't vote on a matter concerning her own discipline, she was allowed to respond to the action. In her comments she denies any wrongdoing, stating that there is "no justification to blame me for slanderous charges" after a letter from her to the town attorney was made public by Knight. That letter, and comments made to the town's auditors, provided the basis for the third complaint. Watson said she "made no allegations" and was attempting to get a recommendation from the auditor on how best to track use of the town's fuel supply.

Watson said the report contained "inaccurate information," and questioned the appropriateness of having trustees perform an investigation, since they will vote based on the results of that investigation.

Watson also questioned the authority of town officials to conduct an investigation and compel a trustee to cooperate.

In addressing the investigation's findings that Watson did not follow the chain of command and report any problems to the town administrator, Watson said she isn't comfortable with talking to Knight.

In a separate action, taken following an executive session to discuss matters of personnel specific to Knight, a letter will be drafted and placed in Knight's personnel file. A motion by trustee Karen Budinger to have Mayor Charles Stewart draft a document pertaining to incidents of a recent governmental affairs committee meeting was approved by a 6-0 vote. The document is to include any recommendations by the mayor for corrective action.

At a previous meeting Knight publicly apologized for what occurred during the meeting, on which Watson and trustee Barry Pennell both serve.

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