There were a variety of issues discussed at 08.09 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
Rick Neely, Chair of the Government Review Committee provided an update on the work of the committee. He noted that their charge was a broad one and identified some of the issues that they were exploring. He mentioned that the committee had identified 11 functional areas that they were focusing on and have 8 meetings to date. Neely also noted that this is not a new process. The town has been modifying governmental operations for quite some time. Specific issues the committee is looking at include financial management, buying IT services, and the size of Town Meeting. When asked he responded that no public input had been sought by the committee. Member Keohane asked if they had considered changing the size of the Board of Selectmen from 3 to 5. Neely said the issue had appeared on their white board but there had been no discussion since. Member Hurley noted that the fundamental financial equation of municipal finance in Milton was problematic in that the average increase in revenue is 1.8% and the average increase in expenses is over 2%. Hurley labeled it “broken.”
The selectmen next discussed the search committee for a new Town Administrator. But before they did Chairman Hurley in a strongly worded statement rebuked the board of its handling of Kevin Mearn’s dismissal as Town Administrator. Hurley said the board had the right and the authority to change town administrators. “I do not take exception to the vote but to the manner in which it was done.” It was in Hurley’s words, “degrading” and humiliating” and “could have been done in a more respectful manner”. He went on to apologize to “Kevin, the town, and my fellow selectmen” for the role he “partly played by not properly controlling the proceedings.” He felt the proceedings were “unfair. We did not give him a chance.”
Sweeney responded by repeating that he had spoken with Mearn in early June and made his intentions clear. He had hoped that Mearn would “take the high road” and go into retirement. He was “dismayed” when after the initial vote Mr. Mearn returned to work. He went on to remark that he did not feel it appropriate to air his laundry with Mearn publicly and facing the audience in the Cronin Conference room said, “[you] need to take me at my word. I had many reasons. It is time to move on.”
Keohane was surprised and appeared angered by the statement. He did not see the item on the agenda and said it was “very unfair of Mr. Hurley to put this on the table.” He (Hurley) gave himself time to prepare a statement which Keohane noted that he and Sweeney could not do. “I do have a response but not right now,” said Keohane. They moved on.
Hurley outlined his thoughts of forming a committee. It should be impartial, consist of 5-7 members that includes town residents and possibly a town administrator from outside Milton. Alternatively the town could engage with a search firm. These two approaches, Hurley noted, are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They could work together. For example, the firm could recruit and vet a pool of candidates from which committee conducts final interviews and makes recommendations. Hurley also identified characteristics and qualifications which included knowledge of municipal law, budgeting and contract negotiation experience, a Master’s degree in public administration. The other selectmen were largely in agreement. Keohane emphasized the need to the new administrator to be an excellent communicator and expressed his desire to see weekly meetings with department heads and published mission statements. They agreed that they would each come back with two nominations for the committee. Acting Administrator Annmarie Fagan mentioned that 6 emails had been received from residents expressing interest. The selectmen invited other residents who would like to serve to email Ms. Fagan.