Fairhaven Board Fires Health Agent Mary Freire-Kellogg
Following months of turmoil, Fairhaven's health agent was fired last night by the three-member Board of Health.
The vote to terminate Mary Freire-Kellogg was 2-0 with Geoffrey Haworth and Michael Ristuccia voting in favor and chairman Peter DeTerra abstaining. Town Counsel Thomas Crotty reminded the board that Ristuccia and DeTerra are the subject of complaints filed by Freire-Kellogg with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, but despite the apparent conflict could invoke a necessity rule to vote, considering that with a double abstention, no quorum would exist.
Her termination was immediate. Freire-Kellogg had been with the town since 2017, and previously worked 17 years with the city of New Bedford.
During Monday's videotaped meeting, board members interrogated Freire-Kellogg during a scheduled hearing on her job performance, and charged that she had failed to communicate in a professional manner. Freire-Kellogg is an employee at will, so can be fired at any time, but not for retaliatory reasons, Crotty told the board.
"I communicated in the most professional manner I could, while dealing with someone I have a harassment charge against," responded Freire-Kellogg. Her attorney, Philip Beauregard, was present and spoke in his client's defense.
With last night's action, only interim health agent Sarah Dupont remains on staff. Part-time inspector Daniel Shea was previously benched for alleged insubordination, and he recently stepped down. Administrative Assistant Amanda Blais quit this year, saying she had been harassed by DeTerra. All three former staffers are now represented by Beauregard.
Haworth told WBSM that he has been helping out with inspections and that there have been no gaps in town inspectional services. "We are investigating all complaints," he said. As for Freire-Kellogg, she "wasn't a good fit," Haworth said, adding that "you can't teach personality. You can't teach people how to work with others."
Haworth, who is also chairperson of the Conservation Commission, is new to the Board of Health. He was named after board member Michael Silvia resigned in June, citing personal conflict with DeTerra and Ristucciia.
Haworth said that more than two dozen people have applied for the vacant administrative assistant position, and that the jobs of Health Agent and Health Inspector have been posted.