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."