The Oak Bluffs town administrator has filed a formal complaint against two town finance and advisory committee members for allegedly making disparaging remarks about her at a recent public meeting.

Aired in a tense public hearing Tuesday night, the complaint by town administrator Deborah Potter singles out finance committee members Richard Weiss and Sherry Countryman for comments they made at a May 19 meeting of the committee. Select board member Gail Barmakian is also named in the complaint, although the allegations against Ms. Barmakian were redacted from the copy of the complaint provided to the Gazette by the town Wednesday morning.

“I regret the need for a formal complaint; however, in my opinion the underlying harassing tone, continuing hostile work environment, and the impugning of my character, reputation, and professionalism (as well as that of the board’s), leaves me no choice,” Ms. Potter wrote in the opening of the two-page complaint, which was delivered by hand on May 24 to select board chairman Ryan Ruley.

The complaint requested an executive session with the select board, but on Tuesday, board chairman Ryan Ruley said the hearing would be held in public session at the request of the two finance committee members.

Town labor counsel Jack Collins was present for the hearing, which saw heated exchanges.

“Not only impugning my integrity, my character, my reputation,” Ms. Potter told the select board in her opening remarks about the finance committee members. “But it impugned yours.”

The complaint centers on a discussion that took place at the May 19 finance committee meeting when questions were raised about the legal validity of Ms. Potter’s recent dual roles as town administratior and town accountant.

Ms. Potter is the previous town accountant. When she was appointed town administrator in June 2021, it was agreed that she would continue temporarily in her role as town accountant in order to supervise and train assistant town accountant Carrie Blair to prepare her for the job.

That transition recently took place and Ms. Blair will become permanent town accountant effective July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Ms. Potter’s written complaint contains a detailed account of the May 19 meeting and formally rebuts numerous statements made by Ms. Countryman and Mr. Weiss.

At the Tuesday hearing, she said it was fully legal for her to hold the dual roles. Mr. Collins agreed. “We’ve looked at it twice now,” he said.

Recounting the May 19 meeting, Ms. Potter said Ms. Countryman and Mr. Weiss had likened the situation to “a fox guarding the henhouse.” She told the board that the conduct of the two officials sets a poor precedent and could contribute to a toxic work environment for town employees.

“If this is how boards are going to address a situation . . . where’s it going to stop?” Ms. Potter said. “It sets a really bad tone.”

Ms. Countryman and Mr. Weiss defended their actions, saying that at the May 19 meeting they were only questioning the situation and not attacking Ms. Potter. “I ask questions and I try to understand things,” Ms. Countryman said. “I try to take that work seriously.”

“When this all began, it seemed like a simple question,” Mr. Weiss said. “It was never about Deb Potter.”

Members of the select board took a different view.

“I think what got us here . . . are the comments that were made during the meeting,” board chairman Ryan Ruley said.

Board members said firmly that no rules had been broken with the dual roles for Ms. Potter.

“There’s no big conspiracy,” select board member Brian Packish said. “This is Oak Bluffs. It’s a tiny town.”

But Ms. Countryman demanded an apology from the select board to her and the finance committee, prompting a sharp response from Mr. Packish.

“Isn’t it amazing how quickly someone can become a victim in a situation where they are a villain?” he said.

Select board member Jason Balboni later concurred with Mr. Ruley, and Ms. Countryman stormed out of the room.

Ms. Barmakian, who is named in the complaint, did not recuse herself from the hearing.

Mr. Ruley suggested another meeting between the select board and the finance committee, once the tensions ease.

“To leave it at this, to me, is not okay,” the chairman said.