Milanoski raises eyebrows and ire with warrant message

Cohasset Town officials are upset about acting town manager Mike Milanoski discussing the challenging union negotiations in his letter to the citizens of Cohasset in the warrant that was mailed out last week.

“Several unions felt they were entitled to a three year 30+% salary increases and one group wanted a total of 30 vacation days, ” Milanoski said. It didn’t end there. He then accused the unions of trying to negotiate on the blogs by providing false and misleading information.”

Does our acting town manager blog? What name(s) does he use when he’s up there fighting with the unions?

It is against the law for Milanoski to have discussed anything about union negotiations, anywhere, certainly not in the town meeting warrant.

I, for one, am tired of Milanoski’s Cinderella story – how a two-week volunteer (this is the first sentence in his address to citizens) who had never been a town manager or an assistant town manager was hired from a pool of exactly one person, and was paid $20,000 more a year than we have ever paid anybody in that position: $153,000.

And then we learn on Page 4 of his four-page address to the town, in the last paragraph, that he has no long-term interest in being town manager for life. What! After all the training sessions we have sent him to? After we paid a fortune to clean up his mistakes and are still paying, he now might leave us? He is bored with us?

Selectmen are reaping what they have sown…myriad of midnight and beyond meetings to undo what the town manager has done. Still contract work to be done – negotiate Firefighter 1 out of the police contract before town meeting, if possible.

Two weeks ago Selectman Koed called for a special meeting in order to pull out numerous items from an already negotiated police contract. His board voted 5-0 to A. Not cross train policemen to be firemen and to rethink many other concepts proposed in the police contract. Selectmen also voted to get rid of a new town hall organizational chart that had not been negotiated with the unions and was causing hearts to flutter.

Koed told Milanoski that he did not have the portfolio of the board of selectmen, that he had not discussed the many issues with them that he was considering implementing, issues that selectmen were reading about in Cohasset Mariner headlines.

Milanoski said he has become so facile at municipal law that he’s reduced the legal budget for FY14 because he can do a lot of the work himself. Selectmen didn’t blink an eye when he told them that at a recent meeting.

For one whole year all selectmen did is negotiate and renegotiate Milanoski’s contract, that he wrote himself. How much did that cost? What are all of the costs of having hired an inexperienced town manager?

Last September this newspaper threatened to go to Norfolk Superior Court for a declaratory judgement on selectmen’s breaking the laws of our Constitution – the Town Manager’s Act. Selectmen then attempted to negotiate a more legal contract with Milanoski. At a December meeting town counsel told the town that many aspects of Milanoski’s contract were unenforceable.

What that meant was never explained.

There is no plan to advertise the job of Town Manager. The acting town manager is accruing vacation days, getting personal days. But there is nothing about his position that is acting. He is here to stay for as long as he has the vote of three selectmen.

I have heard members of the governance committee expressing excitement about increasing the candidate pool for the town manager’s position when their Town Manager Act amendment removes all qualifications – leaving it up to the selectmen to decide who is qualified.

Well, I have seen selectmen’s work. And so have you. And it leaves everything to be desired.

Selectmen have not only put an inexperienced person in charge of a $40MM budget, they broke the law to do it.

I agree with Selectwoman Diane Kennedy who said recently that while Milanoski makes lots of mistakes, it is, precisely, the selectmen’s fault.

When you appoint an untrained person as the CFO of your company, whom do you think is going to train the CFO to do the job?

Selectmen should post an ad for an experienced Town Manager this week. Let him choose his own police chief after he arrives. It’s the perogative of the Town Manager, not the acting town manager, to hire the police chief. And there’s really no rush. Everyone says the Acting Chief is doing a fine job. It’ll hold.

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

  2 comments for “Milanoski raises eyebrows and ire with warrant message

  1. Mike Coughlin
    April 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    This week’s editorial in Cohasset Mariner tries to ascribe Selectman Fred Koed’s criticism of the Acting Town Manager as a breakdown in communications. Well, from the letter he sent with the warrant, it seems that the Acting Town Manger has no problem communicating– it’s just the propriety and the legal problems his communications cause.

    Whether it is a Police Contract that contains the classification “Firefighter 1”, the now defunct search for the next police chief or a self-serving political announcement that accompanies the warrant, the wounds suffered by the Acting Town Manager are self inflicted.

    Selectmen Koed is only bringing these mistakes to light to correct and attempting to mimimize or head off costly litigation that could be triggered by the Acting Town Manager’s actions. Indeed, on Tuesday, the Selectmen need to publicly repudiate these remarks or face the risk of an unfair labor charge by the unions. The Selectmen’s need to actis reinforced by the fact that apparently each selectman personally signed each contract. Under the Town Manager’s Act, the selectmen are responsible for the warrant and although they did not actually write it, each selectmen may find out the hard way they are still responsible for whats in the publication which was sent out.

    Negotiations are built upon trust and it is commonplace for each side to begin talks with positions that may seem a bit unrealistic. The goal is to bargain in good faith in an effort to get to yes which often means agreements to which both sides may be a bit unhappy with. Aside from an unfair labor practice, the Acting Town Manager’s comments are a slap in the face to every employee and one which could effect the environment of future labor negotiations if not every contract the town attempts to negotiate.

    That said, and although I am presently involved in litigation, I can say with all sincereity that every Town Manager and Administrator including the Acting Town Manager has a very difficult job –– particularly when he is new to the profession. Yet, it seems that his worst mistake could be that he has failed recognize a simple truth–“No man is an island”. I recall when I was first appointed to the profession back in 2000. Unlike Mr Milanoski I had prior government experience, but I recognized quickly that nothing prepares you for the job and there is no substitute for experience.

    It is commonplace for municipal managers to reach out to other managers for advice and to avoid mistakes Moreover, it is commonplace for managers, particularly those new to the profession to act “glove in hand” with the town attorney. Even with respect to his own contract, apparently the acting Town Manager has not even reached out to his fellow colleagues to realize that renowned labor attorney Dean Moschos- a feature at every MMA meeting – is the unofficial pro bono general counsel for Massachusetts managers on employment contracts. Why he has apparently not reached out to others is only a question he can answer. If it is true, the Mariner may be correct in ascribing the towns problems to a breakdown in communication: the Acting Town Manager’s failure to communicate with someone who could help him avoid the legal landmines he continues to step on.

    As for Selectmen Koed, if anyone has an axe to grind against Fred Koed it is me. He voted to dismiss me last March and I have a lawsuit against the Board upon which he sat. However, Fred Koed should not be critized by the Mariner. He should be commended for calling for solutions to problems that are of the Acting Town Manager’s own making.

    On Tuesday the Selectmen will hopefully map out a new selection process for Chief. If they do not, it will trigger litigation. Moreover, if the Selectmen fail to admonish the Acting Town Manager for his mailer, then the only alternative for the employees will be to contemplate costly legal action against the town. It is likely that Fred will once again be the voice of reason and it would behove the other selectmen to speak up as well. While the Board is discussing heading off potential litigation, it should perhaps consider moving on the case of Sgt Jack Conte and all the others that have unfairly suffered over the course of the last year.

  2. Joni Conte
    April 15, 2013 at 7:28 am

    I love when you “sum things up” for those of us who do not know the whole story. (I AM guilty of that, never pretended to understand the politics..). Keep going, Tanna. Lots of support coming to Town Meeting this year!!!

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