BUCHANAN — Allegations that Buchanan Mayor Larry Hall made disrespectful comments to female town officials have been discounted by an independent investigation, the town council said Monday night.
An attorney hired by council found “no basis to determine that the mayor discriminated against any female employee on the basis of her sex,” Vice Mayor James Manspile said, reading a statement from the council.
Hall said there was no truth to the allegations and that he was “very hurt” because they came from people he considered friends.
The issue surfaced during an April meeting, when Manspile brought up a letter from a citizen that he had received.
According to meeting minutes, the citizen claimed to have witnessed “on several occasions Mayor Hall talking disrespectfully to the women in the town office and a woman council member.”
After discussing the matter in a closed session, council decided to have an attorney from a Salem firm that specializes in local government and personnel matters look into the allegations.
Council voted unanimously Monday night, with member Jane Kneisley absent, to accept the report as “complete and thorough.”
Because the accusations are being treated as a personnel matter, details of the comments and the investigation into them were not released. “We ask the members of the public to respect the confidentiality of all parties involved,” the statement read.
“At this time, we as Buchanan Town Council town consider the matter to be closed,” Manspile said.
Hall said all his interactions with women staffers and council members have been professional and sensitive.
“I was blindsided” by the allegations, Hall said. “It shook me up and it’s affected my family so much that my wife ended up in the hospital.”
Hall — who has been mayor of this town of about 1,200 since 2012 — said he has accepted an apology from Manspile.
“It is an honor to be your mayor, and I’m going to put this behind me,” Hall told a crowd of about 30 people, a large enough turnout to have the meeting moved from town hall across the street to the Buchanan Theater.
Manspile said he wanted to make it clear that Hall had not been accused of sexual harassment. “Let me be clear: There has been no allegation that anyone has sexually harassed anyone,” he said.
Responding to a question from one citizen, Hall said the cost of the investigation to the town has not been calculated, but that it could reach five figures.
“It’s cost the town a lot of money to set the record straight for something that was falsely accused,” Hall said.