Cohasset Advisory plays hardball with Selectmen

Cohasset Select Chair Fred Koed will call the UMass Collins Executive Search Center to see if it can submit a four-part contract to the Town, in order that the Town can pay as it goes for a four-pronged town manager search.

The reason for this tortured contract is because the Cohasset Advisory committee has balked at starting a search before the Amended Town Manager’s Act becomes law.

Advisors voted 5-0 (a quorum present at the selectmen’s meeting) to start the proceeding for a permanent town manager. But the $7,000 (a $3,500 transfer from the Telephone account and another $3500 from Adivsors) will only pay for half the Collin’s Center proposed contract, a contract that was voted by Selectmen (4-1) several weeks ago.

If UMass’ Collins Center is to follow through as the executive recruiter, another $7,400 will be needed for the Collins Center to advertise for candidates and start the search.

Selectmen will make a second money request from Advisors sometime around October 1. If the Amended Act has not yet become law, it is unclear what advisors will do or will not do.

Four advisors (Tom Reardon, Bob Benson, George Chamillard and Andrew Willard) said it would be important for them to know under which Town Manager’s Act the town would proceed with the search.

The current Town Manager Act says a professional town manager must be hired. It also says the acting town manager must be a qualified professional. The Amended Town Manager Act would loosen the qualifications, opening up the pool of candidates, including the acting town manager. It will go before a joint committee hearing of the House and Senate on July 23rd.

(The current acting town manager is not a qualified professional – a former board of selectmen broke the law when it appointed Michael Milanoski as Town Manager. In an attempt to make his appointment legal, they eventually aborted his Town Manager contract and gave him an Acting Town Manager contract along with a $20,000 raise for all his troubles. Milanoski now weighs in at $153,000 a year – one of the highest paid town managers on the South Shore. Note that Milanoski never applied for the job, was never vetted, interviewed or anything else. He was given a political job.)

It is unknown how quickly the House and the Senate will vote on the Act, or how quickly after that the Governor might sign the Amended Act into law.

But if it’s not signed before October, when Selectmen and Advisors meet again, Selectmen may have to abort the search for a permanent Town Manager, find a new way to fund it, or run their own search.

Not only are advisors playing hardball over the search, advisor Chamillard told selectmen he thought a selection committee should be “heavily loaded” with the leadership of the Town. “We want people to have skin in the game. In Burlington, the screening committee chair was chair of the Finance committee.”

Selectman Diane Kennedy told Chamillard that the Collins Center understands that building a selection committee is critical. “We were impressed with its methodology.”

Willard asked if selectmen were purposefully trying to get the Town Manager ad on the streets before the law is voted. “Are we trying to circumvent the vote in May (April)?”

“Let’s say the process takes six months. The appointment would be in February (2014). It’s taken us one month to get here tonight with you. This February it will have been two years since the town since Town Manager left. We have stabilized the town and it’s time to move forward,” Select Chair Fred Koed said.

Willard said he was concerned about using tax dollars under presumption state will the Amended Town Manager Act.” State law is the state law. We are starting a process prior to state making this law.”

Koed said he didn’t see why the town had to change the process. “It’s a pretty defined position. The only substantive change is eligibility.”

Chamillard asked selectmen what their intentions would be if the legislation were delayed beyond February. “Would you slow down the search?”

Koed said “We passed it, let them do their thing. The Town has to move forward.” He added that he was most concerned about having a well-vetted piece of legislation rather than having something rushed through.” Again, he repeated that the Town had to move forward.

Willard said he didn’t want to change the eligibility for the top position in Town. 

Selectman Karen Quigley noted that it had been a year and a half since the Town had a permanent manager. We have an existing contract that expires at the end of the year. Now is the time to bring stability to the office of the Town Manager. We need process and a plan.”

Selectmen Steve Gaumer said, “Until the Legislature passes (the amended) Town Manager Act, we can’t violate that law. It could be bear trap if we have to arbitrarily discard candidates. We may wish to honor the desires of the Town; the fact is, until the legislation passes we cant arbitrarily violate that law. We have to disclose this up front. It’s a valid question.” 

Advisor Benson wondered where the Town stood with the previous town manager (Mike Coughlin). “Is that going to have an negative effect on new candidates?”

Gaumer said the Collins Center did not feel this would be an issue. But he said the former town manager had sent a letter to media outlets saying that he would be vey active in trying to defeat the amended act in the the legislature. His desire is to be reinstated…that would be the redress that he would like.”

In a plea to move forward, Koed asked Advisors: “What happens if it is defeated at Legislature…where are we then? Selectmen voted 4-1 to go forward.”

 Selectman Gjesteby said they should move forward in the spirit of the Amended Act, as advised by selectman Quigley.

 Willard advised that the second step of launching the search should be delayed.

“These questions best addressed by professionals and legal counsel,” Quigley said.  The overriding issue is we need a permanent town manager. The contract expires at the end of the year. It would be irresponsible of this board to hire another interim, acting town manager.”

 “The current contract shouldn’t drive the bus,” Kennedy said. “We have to do right thing by town for the long term.”

Gaumer, who was the vote against proceeding with a search, said “The worse possible outcome is hiring from a pool of mediocre candidates. Setting false deadlines is a way to make that happen By July 23rd we should have fairy clear understanding if home rule petition will be passed.”

Koed said if a search resulted in mediocre candidate, the Collins Center would be willing to restart recruiting.”

 Advisory Chair Pescatore complained to Selectmen that as this was a budget item, “It’s had to know why this wasn’t contemplated during the budget process. It’s the elephant in the room that technically invalidates this request. How could we not have budgeted money for this?” He said in the interest of keeping it legal he wouldn’t stand in front of it, noting it was the second time this year that money had not been earmarked, the first being the recent police search, that selectmen aborted several weeks ago.


© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed