Cohasset’s Town Manager Pool – if Town Manager Act Amendment Passes

Pool of candidates


 “Wait until you see how many candidates we get once we drop the

qualifications.” Statement made by a member of the Governance committee

I suppose the cartoon alone would suffice as our editorial position. 

But we have a little more to say than that. 

We’re against amending The Town Manager’s Act at this time for all these reasons. 

A.  A new board will more than likely want to advertise for a professional town manager. Because the amendment would need the blessing of the General Court, it would make it difficult to advertise for a new town manager and tell him what his job will actually be. Plus – 

1. Cohasset Governance Committee has not begun to examine bylaw changes that should go hand-in-hand with the Amended Town Manager Act.   

2. If the Amendment passes the  General Court make take several months to bless the changes. 

3. If the Amendment passes there will  be a citizen’s group challenge that could send the Act to a ballot vote. 

4. Many, many detours.

B.  There is a process here that has not been followed. The confusion has arisen because the acting town manager has stayed around much longer than a temporary, acting town manager (ATM) should and is now making decisions a professional, trained town manager should be making. Selectmen have made no move to advertise for a professional town manager. They don’t want to start a search until the Town Manager Act amendment passes, all qualifications are removed for the town manager, and the acting town manager can legally apply for the position.

The ATM is about to hire a police chief. Now, you know how town managers like to hire their own police chiefs. Former Cohasset police chief Mark DeLuca ran into that in two towns – Duxbury and Cohasset. He was successfully running the Duxbury Police department when a new town manager came on board. BAM! The new guy wanted his own guy in the top spot. Same thing happened in Cohasset. The acting town manager wanted his own man – that being the former Deputy Chief who is now the Acting Chief. DeLuca got $300,000 in Duxbury and he will probably repeat that sum in Cohasset when he files his intent to the town sometime this month, we have been told by people close to DeLuca.

If this board of selectmen, whose membership may change by 2/5th on May 11, lets the acting town manager choose the chief, it could  big problems for the new board and the new, professional town manager.

C. This town needs a professional, experienced manager for all these reasons and more:

Because Selectmen are not always paying attention. 

Because Selectmen are a volunteer board chosen largely via popularity contests. Other than being likable folks when they arrive, and found to be in contempt when they leave, they need to lean heavily on the experienced town manager and town counsel to run the town.

The Town Manager is the Every Day Guy. If he doesn’t know how to do the job, who trains him? Absolutely nobody. The Town Manager stands alone. He has to carry his own weight. He is the conductor of this symphony we call Cohasset Town Government.

A member of the Governance committee  said at a recent meeting: “Everyone should be able to aspire to the office of Town Manager.” We agree completely. And if  they aspire to that office they should get a degree in public administration and apprentice with a municipality. And anyone aspiring to become a heart surgeon should go to medical school and apprentice, also. You just can’t let people start operating because they aspire to do so.

There are lots of brilliant people sprinkled throughout our town government.  But if they haven’t apprenticed as an assistant town manager or served as an executive secretary to a board of selectmen, if they have never negotiated a police contract or any contract, I don’t want them running our $40 million budget with a million and one nuances. And you shouldn’t either.

You may think the above cartoon is fanciful and a joke. 

It’s not. It’s a warning to the future.

The next board of selectmen will probably hire a professional manager because even the current board is beginning to understand what a professional manager brings to the equation. But what about the Board of Selectmen in 2018 or 2025 or 2030? They won’t remember what happened in 2011-2013.

The qualifications for the position of Town Manager HAVE to be in the Act.  

For all the reasons above and even more, please Vote No on Article 8 at the Monday, April 22 Annual Town Meeting.


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

  5 comments for “Cohasset’s Town Manager Pool – if Town Manager Act Amendment Passes

  1. Tom Callahan
    April 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Mike, I don’t think we disagree. I have no illusions about the motivations of some who present this change. Indeed, for some I think it is a more fundamental and 15-yr. long disagreement with the strong town manager form we adopted. Many opposed the change 15 yrs. ago. Even I was cautious. One board sued to challenge the authority of the new Act over a procurement question, using personal funds. They lost. Thus my dilemma – a possibily correct tweak put forth for the wrong reason. I am coming around to the view of defeating this amendment and the agenda now, since we can always return to make apprpriate and objectively good faith changes. Also, FYI, I believe the 1-yr. separation rule for internal candidates should remain, to at least insure some distance and appearance of good faith if an internal candidate is later chosen. Keeping that rule would still prevent continuation of the current incumbent.

  2. Mike Coughlin
    April 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Tom, You miss the point of my post. I agree that a wider candidate pool should be considered. I list Mr. Milanoski and Mr. Pescatore because their approach and political affiliations raise questions about their fitness for office. It is very commonplace for former selectmen–like you– to transition into the profession because their experience on the board some of them the practical skills to do the job.

    Obviously, I can no longer vote in Cohasset but any voter should look at the origin of these changes. The Governance Committee was formed by Chairman Ted Carr to apparently appease those angered by the Conservation Commission appointments.

    Of course, with George Chamiliard, Ralph Dormitzer and Mike Milanoski as members any probe in to the backdoor antics of the E-20 group was doomed from the start– if there was any real commitment of looking into this matter from the start.

    While there are some good people on the Governance Committee, voters should never forget that the process started with a discussion to where Peter Pescatore and Ralph Dormitzer appeared in a hastily called meeting in January 2011 when I was on vacation. Talk about the saying– while the cat is away the rats will play.

    If this was truly a comprehensive review of Town Government why vote on the proposed changes when Governance has not studied nor made a review of the management of Water and Sewer. Tom– vote your conscience but be clear– the proposed changes are the last desperate chance by Ralph Dormitzer and Company to keep and legitimize the permanent appointment of the Acting Town Manager.

    The letter accompanying the warrant says it all. In it, the Acting Town Manager indirectly slaps the fire department and municipal union as not being committed to the town’s taxpayers. In light of this weeks events in Boston, the heroic response of our first responders and emergency medical personnel as well as the death of one police officer and the critical injury of another, Mr. Milanoski should hang his head in shame.

    In return, voters should block this last attempt by those who hide in the shadows and without guts post false accusations against town citizens without even having the courage to use their own names.

  3. Tom Callahan
    April 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    This is one issue where I part ways with Tanna and Mike. Yes, I did apply. Not relying wholly on my former position as a Selectman, but that together with years of experience working in municipal law and 20 years overall in Cohasset town government. I do not believe that the pool of TM candidates should be limited to those with MPAs or those who are recycled from town to town – and that is not a shot at those TMs that do move around; we all change jobs within our fields from time to time for a new challenge or a re-charge of batteries, and that’s OK. My point only is that one can find good candidates outside the TM world, and I have seen some in other towns, and you can equally find bad candidates within that TM world. I wholeheartedly agree that an inexperienced and unqualified candidate should not be hired, and one who proves to be the wrong fit should not be retained, nor should a simple appointment of an insider “buddy” be made. I know what Mr. Milanoski did before this job, and I would not dare opine here that he didn’t have the right resume from which to apply in 2011. He did (contrast, though, to how the job was ultimately obtained). Mr. Pescatore, too, perfectly qualified to apply given his background. One doesn’t have to be per se a lawyer, or a finance guy, or in a prior municipal job of some sort, or in a Federal job; any one of them might work out. I am aware of a local TM who was a school committeeman and civil engineer. He started in his own community, served for years until his town’s politics got him, and he has successfully moved on to another town. Many people apply for positions in new but related fields to what they used to do, and I think we do a disservice to ourselves by not looking outside the box. However, this is too often the reflexive reaction in many towns, who then later regret their within-the-box choice (and in this comment I am alluding to a situation outside Cohasset – I have no issue with Mr. Coughlin’s choice and have opposed his removal). In the end, each candidate, and including those from the TM world, need to demonstrate they have the knowledge, skills, aptitude and intangible fit with a given community, not always apparent on a resume. So in the abstract, I think the pool should be open.

    However, in all cases, it comes down to the individual we hire and whatever individuals and agenda might be behind the process. I am going to read the amended Act thoroughly. I am not sure how I will vote. I am suspicious of changes to weaken the position because of perceived or actual flaws of individuals holding the position because I believe in the higher principle of professional management within the rubric of a strong, competent BOS exercising executive powers and policy making. I am also very suspicious of the context of these changes given the original charge of the Governance Committee and the agendas I and others see afoot. But a wider pool, I think, is ultimately to everyone’s advantage, but I concede the caveat that any process can be abused or misused.

  4. Mary Snow
    April 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Just vote no on Article 8. Lets put the dirty dozen to bed once and for all…..

  5. Mike Coughlin
    April 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Although I am presently pursuing a lawsuit against the town, I do agree with and want to shed some specific information in support of this posting. It is an absolute certainty that many in town would apply in the future because many have had eyes on the post in the past– including the search that took place in 2011 which culminated in my appointment.

    As many recall, I started working as Town Manager on August 1st of 2011. In light of the criticism which the Selectmen received for bowing to the pressures of E-20 and not re appointing several long term members of the Conservation Commission, then Chairman Ted Carr came up with the idea of forming a Governance Committee. This body was chaired by now Acting Town Mike Milanoski

    Using this position as well as that of an Associate Member of the Conservation Commission, Mr. Milanoski began to spend an inordinate amount of time in Town Hall to the extent I was getting numerous complaints from various employees. There were numerous e-mails on this subject to then Chairman Ted Carr.

    On a Friday in late September, then Financial Director John Stanbrook came into my office–agitated and once again complained about the distractions being caused by Mr. Milanoski in his and other offices located in that side of town hall. John then directly warned me “Mike– you know he’s after your job”.

    I discounted the warning at the time but as he stepped up his time at town hall including attending department head meetings and the MMA Annual Conference in Boston– I subsequently learned the hard way that John was right Mike Milanoski was after and later did get my job.

    John told me that Mike Milanoski had applied to the Town Manager’s job in 2011 and was deemed unqualified. He apparently withdrew his application and Mike Milanoski was appointed Chairman of the Search Committee as the apparent consolation prize. Still I didn’t see it coming. Yet Mike was the only one.

    Around that same time, John Stanbrook also told me about being rebuffed in his attempts to get funding for some additional staffing from Advisory Committee Chair Peter Pescatore. I reasoned why -it made no sense– it was clear that the Finance Department needed some additional help– in turn John reasoned that Peter Pescatore had also applied for Town Manager, was also rebuffed and probably wanted the new team to not succeed. I briefed Ted Carr on again assured me that this was not the case. Yet in a not so surprising twist of fate, it now appears that it was no coincidence that he suggested his friend Mike Milanoski to take my place as Acting Town Manager.

    Aside from Mr. Milanoski and Mr. Pescatore, I also learned that former Selectman Tom Callahan had also applied. In fairness to Mr. Callahan, it is not unusual for former Selectmen to apply for a Town Manager or Town Administrators post– but it reinforces the warning in this post that there are indeed people waiting in the wings to apply if the Town Meeting weakens the professional criteria of what it expects from a Town Manager.

    It is indeed telling that the move at Town Meeting to make it easier for unqualified people to apply for Town Manager is being lead by Ralph Dormitzer. Aside from the fact that Ralph’s membership on the Governance Committee is probably the reason why it never investigated the very issue upon which it was created– namely the Conservation Commission appointments, the fact that Ralph most likely played a role in the demise of Chief Deluca and Ralph told me to kill the senior center, Dormitzer was surprisingly present at my one of my last department head meetings. It was like being in for the kill.

    The day after I learned that the Selectmen had called upon me to step aside, Ralph Dormitzer was sitting in the basement conference room where I hastily assembled department heads and senior employees. Many department heads were taken aback at his presence but despite repeated attempts Ralph refused to leave. Only when I appealed to Ralph to allow me to say “good bye” privately to the people who I had worked so closely with did he finally leave.

    Aside from being classless, it apparently displays how uncaring Ralph is to anyone who dares to disagree with him. Yet the point to remember on April 22nd– in voting down the proposed changes to the Town Manager’s Act is that the town should want a qualified individual who will step up and disagree with someone like Ralph or anyone else when it is necessary to do so. More importantly, the present town manager’s act needs to be preserved so as to prevent attempts to anoint rather than appoint the next permanent Town Manager in a sham of a selection process akin that which was recently attempted on naming the town’s next Chief of Police.

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