Last week’s Cohasset Selectmen’s meeting like Revelations

Selectmen’s 3.21 meeting was like Revelations -

Selectman Fred Koed showed up and honestly and forthrightly took responsibility for having not personally reviewed a police contract thoroughly – a police contract that was not even understood by the board of selectmen or acting town manager Mike Milanoski. The total cost would be $64,000 a year, plus other unknown costs, according to Koed. Advisory chair Peter Pescatore told selectmen his committee had discussed the police contract at great length and approved it. But it’s obvious now that advisory didn’t understand the legal implications.

The police contract was not Koed’s only problem with the acting town manager.

Milanoski went through a slide presentation of the budget, with the screen behind the selectmen so they could not see it, nor did they have a copy. No paper copies had been provided to the selectmen. Acting town manager Mike Milanoski suggested they turn their chairs around to better view the screen. Had they done so it would have been like sitting in the front row of a movie theater and being blinded by the huge screen in front of you.

Selectman Diane Kennedy remarked that the selectmen don’t get budget handouts. “We have not had a lot of discussion about the budget. Some of the changes are an assumption. It would have been great if we were having these discussions two months ago.”

Milanoski said it was best to vet the budget at the advisory committee, first.

Citizen Adrienne MacCarthy said: “You are the leaders, for you to hear that this is better vetted at advisory is sort of shocking.”

Selectman Martha Gjesteby and Koed both noted that they had advised Milanoski early in the year that they were not interested in his idea of a public safety department. They wanted a separate police chief and fire chief. “We talked about an RFP for police chief. Townspeople are getting a little nervous.”

Gjesteby said the selectmen needed to spend a lot more hours with the budget. Looking at the March 26th agenda, it is unclear when and if this will happen, that leads us to surmise that other plans are in process.

Gjesteby asked Milanoski and Town Counsel Paul DeRensis if they had looked at the order of warrant articles, with reference to the fact that at one point Milanoski had positioned the Town Manager Act Amendment article first, as this is the article if passed that would permit him to apply for the position of Legal Town Manager. DeRensis said the order had not been finalized, but he had impressed upon Milanoski the need to retain the quorum by positioning article in which voters had the most interest further along in the warrant. Koed quickly moved that all financial articles be first in the warrant.  The motion passed 5-0.

“Reorganization of town departments doesn’t take anything away from water or sewer,” Milanoski said.  But when Gjesteby and Koed asked if he had discussed this issue with water and sewer, Milanoski said he didn’t have that answer. “Please inform the board when you  find out,” Koed said.

Mary Snow, Cohasset DPW Administrative Assistant, asked the board if there was going to be an Assistant Town Manager.  “I think we’re about to find out,” Koed responded. Milanoski said his proposed assistant town manager would have to have a Master’s degree with a human services concentration. Gjesteby and Kennedy said they were against that position.

Jen Oram stands her ground

Gjesteby said: “The assistant to the town manager has been moved to the police department. She has a wealth of knowledge and she has been here 7 or 8 years.  I don’t see changing the staff in here. I would like to keep Jen Oram. Selectmen had a letter in their packet from Oram advising them that she was not interested in the position of Public Safety Manager that Milanoski was proposing she take, as it was a $16,000 reduction in pay. Oram has Human Resources training and she feels she would be better suited to the Assistant Town Manager position. Oram said if she should take the position, she would expect to receive the same pay.  Also, Oram asked selectmen for a job description and a response from the Milanoski as to why he would not consider her for the position of Assistant Town Manager.

Another Budding Lawsuit  

When Milanoski spoke about the person on maternity leave in the police department for whom Oram is covering, Jennifer Ferrick who was present at the meeting, spoke up. “I am the person on leave. I was cut from 40 hours to 35 hours.” She told selectmen that Milanoski had proposed that her hours be cut to 19 hours – just under the 20 hr. minimum to receive health care.

Milanoski wants to post all town hall jobs

Milanoski doesn’t have the details worked out exactly, and there will be work to be done on impact bargaining. He wants to put post all town hall jobs and have employees apply for their own jobs or other jobs and he will decide what jobs they get. Mary Snow said: “You’re putting the cart before the horse. Nobody has agreed to any changes in our union.”

Agnes McCann said: “Where did this come from? We don’t know this. When did you as a board decide to reallocate the staff? This is like a corporate takeover the town hall. I’m amazed we could be talking about this. These are human beings.”

Koed said “There has been discussion about this, but apparently I have not been at the table. If we’re not talking about this here, where are these decisions being made?”

Selectmen Koed, Gjesteby and Kennedy all said they were uncomfortable with the lack of budget discussions they have had.

Koed said Milanoski was supposed to maintain the town for a year with not a lot of big changes. “That’s what I heard. There’s too much change. He’s not a permanent town manager, he’s an acting town manager. He’s going to hand over the keys to whoever’s going to take the permanent position.”

Gjesteby said: “I spent 10 hours on this budget. There’s no breakdown in the budget. If we run out of money we’re really in trouble.”

Milanoski said selectmen would hear from Capital Budget and Advisory this coming Tuesday. He noted that he needed a vote on the final warrant on April. 2. “You can accept, reject or modify any of the recommendations. It’s time for you to deliberate.”

Gjesteby said “We need to look at this alone, for several hours. And we need a list of capital budget items, we don’t have those. That’s part of our budget.”

Koed, showing displeasure, said “This should be done at the beginning of the process, not at the end.” Koed also complained that in an earlier proposed warrant an article combining water and sewer was on the warrant and two selectmen present at the advisory committee didn’t know anything about it.

Koed said he felt like a potted plant. “I might as well bring a potted plant (to sit at his chair) and go home and watch TV.”  Select Chair Paul Carlson asked if he would be watching the selectmen’s meeting.

Jack Kennelly ( governance, budget planning, capital budget and other committees) and Peter Pescatore both agreed that selectmen should get first shot at the budget, not the last.

A few weeks ago there was a move by illegal acting town manager Mike Milanoski to fire town counsel. It appears Milanoski had the blessing of Select Chair Paul Carlson and Selectman Leland Jenkins to put the town’s legal services budget on the agenda.  But he did not have the blessing of Selectmen Fred Koed, Martha Gjesteby and Diane Kennedy.

(Link to that article: http://www.tinytownunleashed.com/tinytowns/cohasset-selectman-fred-koed-wants-to-know-wheres-the-beef-milanoski/)

Since that meeting Koed has moved to solve a lot of problems created by Milanoski and his advisors.

Peter DeCaprio and his attorney Jay Talerman were in process of taking control of the conservation commission. Talerman had offered to provide pro bono services to the conservation commission and represent it in court against DeCaprio’s neighbor, Ted Ford, who has a buildable lot on Jerusalem Road. Ford has been denied a storm water permit by the conservation commission. The case is going to court this month.

Months ago,  Milanoski had pulled town counsel off the case, saying he was not sure the town was going to defend the conservation commission. At selectmen’s 3.21 meeting Milanoski told Ted Ford’s attorney, Charles Humphreys, that Deutsche Williams (Town Counsel’s firm) is now following up on the case, having been pulled off for months.

Selectmen are scheduled to vote on the Amended Town Manager Act at Tuesday’s meeting. The Amended Act will clean up language, but it will also remove the qualifications that require the town manager and the acting town manager to have experience as a town manager.

Will the selectmen dare to vote for this article  after last Thursday’s meeting, when the gates of Hell opened and the audience and letter writers made resounding points as to why this town needs a Town Manager who knows what he’s doing? We shall soon find out.

Things are changing at town hall.

The potted plants have awoken – and it’s nice to have them back. Welcome!

And Happy 84th birthday to Martha Gjesteby, who has never been and never will be a potted plant.

Best Quote of the Meeting: “My integrity is impeccable.” – Milanoski

 

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