A licensed private investigator has determined that former Facilities Manager Wayne Walkden’s claims against the town manager and public works director are not substantiated.
PLYMOUTH – A licensed private investigator has determined that former Facilities Manager Wayne Walkden’s claims against the town manager and public works director are not substantiated.
A licensed private investigator and retired law enforcement professional, Paul L’Italien wrote in his report that he found no wrongdoing on the part of Town Manager Melissa Arrighi or Public Works Director Jonathan Beder, including Walkden’s claim that the town manager instructed him to suppress information and prevent him from speaking to the Select Board and Town Meeting members. L’Italien said this and all allegations are unsubstantiated.
Other claims L’Italien refuted include Walkden’s assertions regarding alleged misconduct with handling of the town hall cooling system, commissioning of the building (having a third party ensure that HVAC systems are installed properly), the payment of $204,000 to a single contractor, installation of gas filing equipment at the DPW salt shed, and the exterior washing of trucks without proper filtration.
L’Italien did, however, note that his investigation revealed that building permits were not pulled for the construction of office space at the DPW Annex building, but added: “The investigation did not reveal any information that this occurred at the direction of the DPW director.”
In his report and interviews with Arrighi and Beder, they say the Walkden repeatedly focused on errors he claimed had been made in the past instead of focusing on his current job and what needed to be done.
In November, Walkden released an 85-page complaint detailing what he called a hostile work environment and what he alleged was a culture of deceit at Town Hall, where vital information about the condition of town buildings and properties is deliberately kept hidden.
Walkden accused Arrighi and Beder of misconduct. Claiming management was planning to fire him, he resigned soon after the complaint’s release.
Arrighi responded to the investigator’s report this week, expressing her shock at how these allegations were brought forward without due process and some of the public’s denigrating response to them.
“We are hopeful that as much publicity will be given to our vindication as was given to his lies and accusations,” she said in an email. “For me, there were two real shocking issues with this matter. The first, of course, was having a disgruntled and somewhat troubled employee make all these false allegations against me and also talk negatively about so many people in this organization, when clearly he did not understand his own job, never mind his lack of comprehension about what other employees’ roles were.”
Social media’s role in this difficult chapter was hard to take, she added.
“But honestly, more shocking to me, was the knee jerk reaction by a few certain residents who resorted to social media, the newspaper, or WATD to insinuate that there was truth behind Walkden’s made up stories,” she wrote. “Most of the people I talk to are intelligent and quickly knew to hold judgment until they understood the full scope of the story. They also recognized the shameful tactics being used to embarrass leadership and wanted no part of that type of publicity stunt. I want to thank them for their support, and I wish I could have shared information at that time or responded to the accusations as soon as this happened.”
Beder also released a statement.
“Leading the DPW not able to comment on any of the frivolous accusations was not easy,” he wrote. “This investigation challenged my integrity and reputation and as a result, I found myself working harder than ever to overcome all the negative publicity. I am proud of my accomplishments as DPW Director and so fortunate to be doing a job that I love. Advancing projects, engaging with staff, doing anything and everything to keep so much moving forward positively and successfully is what we do and what we do best!”
Beder was also anxious to thank his crew and its support.
“I want to thank all the DPW staff, town employees, and so many residents for their wholehearted support throughout,” he added. “Working together with the many boards, commissions, Town Meeting members and residents, has allowed us to accomplish so much over the years. There has been tremendous improvement in the DPW since I started in 2011. This has allowed for better functionality, relationships, and working environments to promote all the DPW. Collectively, the DPW provides and is relied on in so many ways, always putting tremendous efforts forward to meet a variety of demands and expectations to get the work done. Plymouth has witnessed first-hand, my dedication, commitment, and resolve during difficult and tense situations. We have been battle tested over the years and adversity challenges me and always will. Everything we do is in the best interest of this Town, and I look forward to what the future brings for me in Plymouth.”
Walkden questioned the investigation, noting the town’s lawyers, Kopelman & Paige, hired the investigator, and K&P is hired by Arrighi herself. He said having an investigator essentially hired by the person cited in the investigation is a miscarriage of justice.
“I requested a third party investigation,” Walkden said. “I wanted the state to be involved - the attorney general or inspector general and do a proper third-party investigation or at least an independent investigation. The type of investigation that was done was not independent. It would be like any person investigating themselves."
Walkden said that the town has a history of losing good people and will continue to do so because of its treatment of workers like him. He stressed that his case is not the only one that references this treatment; a number of other former employees have confirmed it, he said.
Arrighi said it is actually she and the town in general that have been treated unfairly in all of this, with unsubstantiated lies being taken as the truth. Beder acknowledged the stress these falsehoods have caused him.
“I am relieved this is over,” Arrighi wrote in closing. “However, I assure you that this will not break my will or deter me from doing my job and taking employment action in the future when it is warranted. As I’ve said before, this town deserves no less. I think the hashtag should have been #letherdoherjob.”
She said she is considering her legal options in this matter, specifically defamation of her character.
The Select Board voted unanimous with a vovte of 4-0 to close the case. Select Board member Betty Cavacco was not present. She said Monday that she had to recuse herself from the vote because her husband was employed by Walkden.
The town has posted documentation regarding this case on its website. For more information, visit www.plymouth-ma.gov/home/news/results-walkden-investigation.
Editor's note: This story has been edited for clarification.