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Seekonk Official Ripped for Hosting Bingo Game

The town's human services director obtains a Bingo license without consulting the town administrator or selectmen.

Earlier this month, three people played Bingo at the Seekonk Council on Aging building. The cost was 25 cents per game. What these gamblers probably did not know was that their actions would lead to a heated discussion at a Board of Selectmen meeting.  

Town Administrator Pam Nolan and Selectman Bob McLintock ripped Human Services Director Bernadette Huck at the meeting Wednesday night for hosting the game because she obtained a license without notifying Nolan or the selectmen.

"Bingo is Bingo and it's gambling regardless of how you call it," McLintock said. "The fact of the matter is you should not have done what you did as it relates to your own board, this board and also the town administrator."

He added, "There's a lot of other things that this could lead to, and the system that's in place that has checks and balances and everything else in the town should be followed ... I have no problem with people playing Bingo. A lot of people like playing Bingo. There is a lot of money involved and everything else. And all of the checks and balances that have to be put in place if you're going to do something like this have to be adhered to, and this was the wrong way to go on this one."

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Huck apologized, saying she did not think to ask Nolan prior to obtaining a license. However, selectmen Chair Francis Cavaco read a transcript from a July Human Services Commission meeting at which commissioners told her to talk to Nolan about this issue. Huck said she received the license from the state Lottery Commission after applying online. There was no fee. No games have been played since the one that took place earlier this month, Huck said.

Cavaco cited the state's Bingo law, which he said includes requirements for the opening of a separate checking account and the filing of an annual financial report. Huck said she had not opened an account and did not keep a financial record of the game. She told Seekonk Patch after the meeting that one person may have spent as much as $1.25 at the game.

Nolan said she had several concerns, including that the program was not covered by town's insurance because proper officials had not been informed. She said this was dangerous in a building she described as "questionable" and "not up to code."

"That's a huge thing, not a little thing," Nolan said. "In a dilapidated building that is not up to code, not up to par, I think it's dangerous."

Several selectmen said they were OK with Bingo being played, but not until the new senior center is built. The selectmen voted to table the issue as requested by Nolan, who said she needed time to figure out what to do. When asked whether she would have a proposal at the next meeting, Nolan shook her head, and said in a disappointed voice, "I won't be ready then. Right now, I can't tell you [when I will be ready]."

The discussion sparked a vocal reaction from the audience. There was an uproar when Nolan said to Huck, "I have a problem with how it was administratively created. This was a new program we had no knowledge of whatsoever. I am your boss."

Somebody in the audience yelled that Huck should be treated with more respect, causing Nolan to turn head to the audience. Later during the meeting, activist David Saad called Huck's treatment "shameful" and said the issue should have been discussed during an executive session behind closed doors.

In response to Saad's comment, Nolan said, "It's perfectly permissible under the laws to speak about an employee's performance. Executive session is not for performance, it is only for matters that affect their character and reputation."

Joe November 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM
In Mr Cavaco's many trips to Boston has he ever stopped in to get a gamblin license? With all the bets and wagers he makes on the air at BOS meetins It almost seems like he is running a bettin parlor. Oh I am sorry they don't count because it is all for good causes unlike bingo which is cut throat and hard fought.
deb of see-attleboro November 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I always thought it was illegal to bet on political races. But what the hey! This is Seekonk. Why start playing by the rules now?
Tony George November 29, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I can't believe I am reading this....
Kevin Riley November 29, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Most every entity has protocols and written guidelines, a checklist if you will. So I pose this question. What are the protocols of running such events? Are they in writing for a director to follow to adhere to the " checks and balances" as prescribed. Or is this town managed by a bunch of straw bosses who make up the rules as they see fit according to the direction of the wind?
Joyce Leven November 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
it's the wind, no question.
William Rice November 29, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Public intimidation and humiliation demonstrates a lack of communication and leadership. Screaming, "I am the boss!", is a "tell". There were five other people sitting there, letting it happen.
deb of see-attleboro November 29, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Well, most boys enjoy a good cat fight;)
Emcee of Seekonk November 29, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Do we really need a protocol for a small group of women to sit down to an ad hoc game of bingo in a senior center? "Or is this town managed by a bunch of straw bosses who make up the rules as they see fit according to the direction of the wind?" You could say that. When a checklist is needed, they write one up... right on the spot. Someone seconds it. The vote is more or less counted. Passed.
Carol Bragg November 29, 2012 at 10:44 PM
"Praise in public. Criticize in private." Good lesson I learned from a Seekonk police officer. It saves everyone a great deal of embarrassment.
deb of see-attleboro November 30, 2012 at 12:30 AM
How true, Carol. All agenda items should be as positive as that of Mrs Parker vs Mr Sagar. All that was missing was a rousing chorus of "For she's a jolly good Fella". If you think about it, had Mrs Parker been standing in Mrs Huck's shoes, I don't think we would have witnessed such a bloodbath. Wanna bet which one of the four musketeers would have been first to come to the defense of Mrs P as "damsel in distress" ? Tough call, IMHO:)
Alice November 30, 2012 at 04:05 AM
That was the worst display of public flogging I have seen. Ms. Nolan should be ashamed of herself. Not only was she out of line in her treatment of Mrs. Huck, the whole thing was just plain embarrassing . All of that should have been taken care of in Ms. Nolan's office behind closed doors, not at a public meeting. It seems that it was her intention to embarrass and humiliate Mrs. Huck in public. Also, shame on the BOS for allowing it to happen in the first place. Mrs. Huck may work for Ms. Nolan, but Ms. Nolan works for them. Perhaps THEY should have better control of the people who work for THEM Alice.
Amy November 30, 2012 at 04:02 PM
The Chairman of The Board of Selectman made a bet of $50.00 with another Selectman on a Presidential election. Then, publically handed the Chairman of the School Committee the cash to pay off the bet. Then, Mrs. Huck gets publically flogged for obtaining a legal license for 25 cent Bingo games for Human Services. Now, as stupid as this whole scenario is that the Selectmen and Town Administrator created for themselves. The Selectmen meant no harm and tried to do something nice as did Mrs. Huck. The issue is, The Selectmen, Town Administrator and the Town Clerk need to hold themselves to the same standards they impose on everyone else and need to be reminded that they’re there to represent the people of this town and not themselves. It’s not about them. They need to stop with the public humiliation of others!
deb of see-attleboro November 30, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I am still pretty sure that betting on presidential elections is illegal. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!
Emcee of Seekonk November 30, 2012 at 05:15 PM
You know, all this betting with the proceeds going to favorite charities could all be done off camera. It's Grandstanding101. I'm more than tired of this BOS.
deb of see-attleboro November 30, 2012 at 06:11 PM
We may see more such pandering come election time. I think Mr Cavaco has at least once offered to refuse or donate his stipend if elected. Not good for the process, IMO.
Annwithane November 30, 2012 at 07:35 PM
I agree! Give me a break! This is embarrassing for Seekonk. Where are your priorities people??? Besides the fact that Mrs. Huck has done and is doing a wonderful job for our seniors, isn't there any other matter that is a LOT more important than a few people playing bingo and not for cash. I think before the shot is fired, more looking into the matter is warranted.
deb of see-attleboro November 30, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Anne: Just because the matter was VERY poorly handled by the TA does not mean the matter is unimportant. The issue is not about a few people playing bingo. The issue is whether an employee of the town can apply for a license without following the proper chain of command. A secondary issue is why the employee thought what she did was ok. She is far from a rookie. At least that is the how I understand the issue. In any event, you are correct. This is embarrassing and never should have seen the light of day. I don't know why it was handled this way. Most importantly, why didn't the chairman of the board not put a stop to it immediately?
William Rice December 01, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Selectman Almeida may be under the radar, but, he already donates his stipend.
deb of see-attleboro December 01, 2012 at 10:14 AM
That's right. I seem to recall Mr Almeida making such a pledge. I really don't like these tactics. If the two of them feel so strongly that selectmen should not be paid, they should pledge to fight to eliminate the stipend. Charitable giving to get something tangible in return (votes) is not charity at all. Any giving should be a matter left between the donor and the organization,,,,and the IRS, of course;)
William Rice December 01, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Anonymity has it's virtues (especially here in Puritan New England) however, public giving seems to beget more public giving which is good for all those who receive. Nice habit for this, and, any other time of the year.
deb of see-attleboro December 01, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Two politicians buying votes does not motivate me to give more.
Emcee of Seekonk December 01, 2012 at 04:09 PM
"Two politicians buying votes does not motivate me to give more." Nor me. Furthermore, when a public official designates a gift to a certain group, it leaves others saying, "What not me?" Why not toys for kids, food for the food pantry, heat for those in the cold, etc. etc.? The gift giving is wonderful, but when it done at a public meeting, it is suspect.
Jonathan Friedman (Editor) December 01, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I've done fundraising before, as have probably many others here. One of the first rules is that when one person gives, it motivates others to give. And when it's somebody of note (and whether you like the current selectmen or not, they are of note), it's an even better motivator. However, whether the money lost in a “bet” should be handed out during a selectmen meeting, especially one that included a heated discussion on the appropriateness of “gambling,” is a matter of debate.
Emcee of Seekonk December 01, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Another thought: An appreciated gift from the BOS to retailers might a moratorium on sign rules for the month of December instead of collectively sitting back and saying, "We understand your pain, but we have no way to help you." Think out of the box a little bit, or at least try. Amid all the lights and gee-gaw of the season, a temporary sign advertising wood pellets would seem to hardly matter. Might even help a struggling retailer. On January 2, the Building Inspector can send the truck around reminding everyone who needs to be reminded that the game's over.
deb of see-attleboro December 01, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Jonathan: My point is this. If a candidate boasts that *IF* elected, he/she will distribute his/her stipend amongst Save-a-pet, Doorways, Veterans, the School band, Seekonk Tigers etc: he/she is pretty much are buying votes. Even if legal, IMO such tactics are unethical. If a candidate does not think a public position should be compensated, then say so and promise to work towards eliminating said compensation.
William Rice December 01, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Seems a rather cold hearted approach....people open their hearts and give...I don't see the problem. We could argue til the cows come home whether or not any thing people have done needs to be "not mentioned" because it may be considered buying votes by someone. Peace
Michael Bartlett December 02, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I too would like to express, in my opinion, what an absolutely embarrassing managerial display that was. It has to be the most unprofessional action I’ve seen by a town administrator in my sixteen years of watching Selectman’s meetings. I’ve been in management for almost twenty years (public and private) with my degree in Management and have never put myself or a subordinate in that position. In addition, Ms. Nolan’s response to comments from Mr. Saad that what she did (attempting to publicly humiliate a department head) is perfectly legal was equally disgraceful. Just because the law says you can do it doesn’t make it right. Let me be clear, Ms. Huck’s actions warrant progressive discipline, quite frankly, based on the info provided, I would have called her in and given her a final written warning; making it clear that if she ever takes an action similar to this without my knowledge that she would be terminated. However, after this public display I would be concerned about Ms. Huck’s due process rights since you already interrogated her in public when the agenda item was only “Discussion with Human Services Director on Bingo License.” Ms. Nolan should have had this ‘discussion’ one on one in her office and then reported the incident to Selectman as part of her Town Administrator’s Report. Ms Nolan needs to publicly apologize to Ms. Huck at the next Selectman’s meeting for her (Ms. Nolan’s) inappropriate actions.
Carol Bragg December 02, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Board of Selectmen's Statement of Ethics: http://seekonk-ma.gov/pages/SeekonkMA_BComm/BOS/ethics.pdf
William Rice December 02, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Initially, hind sight used fairly is a great teaching moment....a chance to reconsider and play differently with different results. its never too late for hindsight to bring different light forward ..lotta humble pie to eat but is the noel season. Gambling is gambling is gambling no matter what coat it wears. Let the chips fall.
William Rice December 02, 2012 at 03:47 AM
This needs to be made into appropriate plaque, carried into meeting an displayed at appropriate times

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