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Abington officials to meet with lawyer to discuss town manager

Abington selectmen will consult a lawyer as they consider the conduct of town manager John D’Agostino.

Sonja Wallgren for the Boston Globe

Abington selectmen will consult a lawyer as they consider the conduct of town manager John D’Agostino.

The battle between Abington selectmen and town manager John D’Agostino is expected to reach a crucial juncture this week, when selectmen meet with their outside lawyer to determine if he breached his employment contract with the town.

Selectmen want their lawyer to help them determine if D’Agostino violated terms of his contract when he applied for a town manager position in Key West, Fla., without prior permission. They also want to check if his conduct toward the Board of Assessors warranted their recent 3-0 vote of no confidence in him.

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Selectman Kevin Donovan said that the decision to look into the town manager’s recent conduct came after a series of events and articles in the Patriot Ledger and Enterprise newspapers.

In a phone interview last week with the Globe, D’Agostino said he believes the selectmen are pursuing him because he has attempted to clean up what he says is nepotism and cronyism in town boards and commissions.

He said he has contacted the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission four times since taking office.

“When you go up against the big boys and you report them to State Ethics as I have, this is the outcome,” said D’Agostino.

Selectmen decided to hire an outside law firm after receiving an e-mail from the Board of Assessors describing a separate set of circumstances that led them to a unanimous no-confidence vote in the town manager.

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According to an e-mail from the Board of Assessors chairman, Paul Zakrzewski, the vote of no confidence was largely attributable to the town manager’s continued pursuit of $400,000 from the town’s cash-reserve account to balance the town budget. The Department of Revenue told the board that he did not have the right to supersede the Board of Assessors’ decision.

Zakrzewski also wrote that he was concerned about an alleged threat against him made by D’Agostino to town moderator Shawn Reilly.

“We don’t think he is acting in a professional manner, we don’t think he is following all the layers of the law, and though he will be gone in a few years, the townspeople will still be paying for these mistakes,” said Zakrzewski in a phone interview with the Globe this week.

D’Agostino, explaining his side of the story, said he did not threaten Zakrzewski, but that he had simply told town moderator Reilly of his interest in posting all ethics violations online. As for the $400,000, he said he was acting appropriately and in the best interests of the town.

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