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Thread: The many problems with the Selectmen's firing of the Town Administrator

  1. #1
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    Default The many problems with the Selectmen's firing of the Town Administrator

    The Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 last night to fire Town Administrator Fred Turkington. Turkington had received excellent reviews every year since being hired, but was fired "without cause" because the town supposedly needs a "new direction". However, there was no public discussion or explanation of what that "new direction" might be.

    The motion was made by Tony Boschetto. Ed Collins and Doug Leard voted with him. Leard, as Chair, Collins and Boschetto offered no substantive discussion of the motion. What is unclear to me is what "new direction" Boschetto, Collins and Leard were agreeing we needed without having any public discussion of what that "new direction" might be. Joe Nolan voted against the motion; Steve Correia was appalled by the process, refused to be part of it and left without voting. (Watch the video online here starting at 27:30)

    There was no public advance notice of this. The agenda stated: "Review Town Administrator Employment Agreement and Job Description" and Chairman Leard (who is responsible for the agenda) did not return Mr. Correia or Mr. Turkington's requests for clarification. Selectmen Steve Correia and Joe Nolan were clearly completely blindsided.

    On the other hand, Selectmen Collins and Leard seemed unsurprised by the motion. The same could be said of the unusually large audience for a summer meeting with no major matters apparently on the agenda. Chairman Doug Leard managed to make what he called the "most difficult decision ever" in a few minutes without any substantive public discussion, but then he offered to write a letter of recommendation for the man he was terminating. I can't make sense of how this can happen in a world in which no discussions about board decisions are allowed to be made outside the public view.

    This termination, of a man whose performance is not being disputed, turns our Town Administrator position into a political appointee. Who would take what is intended to be a long-term position if they might be treated this way, arbitrarily, by the Board of Selectmen? The Town has endangered its ability to hire quality personnel in the future.

    The Town has an obligation to pay Mr. Turkington's salary and retirement benefits for the next 12 months. If the Board was dissatisfied with Mr. Turkington's performance, it should have been discussed with him and indicated on his evaluations. If they weren't dissatisfied, then the decision could only be purely political in what is not intended to be a political position. Why not have just waited until his contract expired and then made a timely transition to the next Town Administrator? We won't know because there was no public discussion of this.

    Consider the risks this puts the town in today. We just fired our COO with no transition or replacement plan (or at least one in any way articulated to or vetted by the public). We have major items on the agenda including the new DPW building process and we are just about to head into the budgeting process with a brand new Finance Director.

    I am aghast. I feel duped and blindsided, cheated as a taxpayer, violated as someone who believes in courtesy and transparency, by this decision by three members of the Board of Selectmen. I am embarrassed by the actions of the three majority members of this board. I feel we are owed a collective explanation, apology, and immediate reversal of a thoughtless and hasty decision.


    Note: This posting is my work individually, and has not been reviewed or endorsed by the WaylandeNews editorial board.

    Note: Mr. Leard has not (as of the time I am making this post) responded to my email early this morning looking for help with my confusion over understanding of how this vote could have occurred as it did. If he does respond, I will suggest to him the opportunity to provide clarification here.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 08-27-2013 at 01:30 PM. Reason: clarification

  2. #2
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    Default

    As Kim notes above, at last night's Board of Selectmen meeting, member Tony Boschetto made a motion (relatively detailed and technical in nature) to terminate the employment of Town Administrator Fred Turkington. Board members Joe Nolan and Steve Correia, along with Mr. Turkington himself, were caught completely by surprise. Chairman Leard, who put the issue on the agenda, claimed also to be surprised, although his demeanor might cause some people to wonder. (The agenda simply read, "Review Town Administrator Employment Agreement and Job Description.")

    A bit more than 15 minutes of discussion then ensued. That discussion consisted primarily of Mr. Nolan and Mr. Correia taking strong objection to both the action and the process. Interspersed among Mr. Nolan's and Mr. Correia's remarks, Mr. Boschetto offered only vague platitudes about "new directions" and "best interests of the Town and Mr. Turkington" while Mr. Leard and Mr. Collins commented only on the language of the employment contract. At the end of the discussion, Mr. Leard then joined (after an awkward 9-second pause) Mr. Boschetto and Mr. Collins in voting to make the termination official.

    Mr. Turkington's 8-year tenure in Wayland has been marked by consistently strong performance reviews. To terminate his employment with no substantive public discussion can at best be described as curious.

    Some residents may be forgiven for wondering whether the three Selectmen are guilty of more than simply acting without transparency. These residents may wonder: was there a violation (or several) of the Open Meeting Law?

    No doubt, Wayland Transparency will be on the case of any transparency transgressions while George Harris will investigate any skirting of the Open Meeting Law.

  3. #3
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    Default With the national media focused on Miley Cyrus...

    ... who knew the real immorality and obscenity was live on WayCam?

    Of course, the Three Stooges had their "reasonings" (to quote the Chair) but why share them with the public?

    How do we do a Recall?

  4. #4
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    A question for each of Selectmen Boschetto, Leard, and Collins--failure to answer satisfactorily is in my opinion evidence that they do not deserve the offices they currently hold.

    1. Mr. Boschetto was perhaps alone in having time to think about the termination of the Town Administrator. My question for Mr. Boschetto: in what way are the best interests of the town (his words) served by this decision?

    2. My question for Mr. Leard: if, as you unconvincingly claim, the motion to terminate was a surprise, why would you spend less than 15 minutes before terminating a position, especially one as important as that of the Town Administrator?

    3. My question for the nearly silent Mr. Collins, who didn't claim to be surprised: why would you spend less than 15 minutes before terminating a position, especially one as important as that of the Town Administrator?

  5. #5
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    Default The Questions Not Asked

    Having slept on what transpired yet another night, I find my outrage has only built.

    The argument made by Tony Boschetto, Doug Leard, and Ed Collins during the debate and parroted by a poster at the Patch that because this was a termination without cause the Selectmen shouldn't discuss it strikes me as simply beyond disingenuous.

    There is a LOT they could have talked about, should have talked about, and had a fiduciary duty to talk about. What could and should they have talked about? Here are just a few examples:

    • whether it or not it was actually was a good idea (they didn't)
    • precisely what "new direction" the town is supposed to be moving in (they didn't)
    • whether Fred could be helpful in transitioning (they didn't)
    • whether there might be negotiated alternatives to the 12 month severance (they didn't) a transition plan (they didn't)
    • why this was "in the best interest of the residents" (they didn't)
    • how to handle the upcoming budget year short-handed with only the current assistant Town Administrator (they didn't)
    • the overall merits of the proposal, the pros and cons, (maybe even sought public feedback) before voting (they didn't even do that!)
    • whether this might have a chilling effect on other employees (they didn't)
    • whether this might influence the Town's ability to attract quality personnel in the future (they didn't)


    I remain stunned (though apparently not speechless! :-) that things could have transpired as they did. I am embarrassed for our town and the way this will look to the rest of the world.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 08-28-2013 at 10:12 AM.

  6. #6
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    Exclamation I am disgusted by your action last night regarding Fred Turkington

    The following was submitted by Lea Anderson (HSBC Chair and former School Committee member, but writing as an individual).

    It was sent to the members of the Board of Selectmen who voted to terminate Fred Turkington's contract and forwarded to us for publication here:

    Doug, Tony, and Ed,

    I can't believe that this is the Wayland I have loved living in for 36 years.

    We in Wayland do not treat our employees so badly.
    We in Wayland do not hide pertinent information regarding agenda items from fellow board members.
    We in Wayland do not plot in private to fire a dedicated and highly competent employee and then use the Open Meeting Law as an excuse for not sharing information with fellow board members.
    We in Wayland do not jeopardize the town's ability to attract quality employees.
    We in Wayland do not waste $150,000.
    We in Wayland do not hurt the reputation of the town.
    We in Wayland do not deflate the morale of all our hard working town employees.

    If I sound angry, it is because I am.

    This is the saddest day for me in Wayland in 36 years.

  7. #7
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    Angry letter to selecmen regarding firing of town administrator

    Dear Selectman,

    I know that I am not alone in being outraged and appalled at the manner in which the town administrator was fired without cause. It is beyond belief, that this type action could happen without notice or discussion. Completely separate from the merits or lack thereof of Fred Turkington's job performance, was the discourteous and unprofessional way that he was treated, and the inappropriate manner that this proposal was introduced, to bulldoze him out of there. I applaud Joseph Nolan and Steve Correia, who could see how incredibly inappropriate and appalling this action was, on multiple levels. There were so many issues that were wrong...a misleading agenda to sneak in the firing, no chance for meaningful discussion or input from the residents, the discourtesy of not even looking at Fred Turkington, the willingness to take on the financial burden, the impact for future hirings, etc,etc. The statement that this action was the most fair to Fred Turkington, and the residents of Wayland rang as being completely insincere and fabricated. As a long time resident of the town, I also found the "new direction" (not specified) to be troubling. Excepting Steve Correia and Joseph Nolan, I found the board to act in such an unprofessional manner that they should not be representing Wayland. If this is the image that you want to project of our town, you have no right to be on the board. It was a shameful and embarrassing display, and LACKED ALL TRANSPARENCY. This is not how government in Wayland should be work, or how decent humans should act. It is my hope, that when you review the video of the meeting, you can ask yourself if this really is the kind of image you wish to put out there...would your children or fellow residents view this and ever want to emulate the behavior of board?


    Sincerely,

    Kathy Cleaver
    17 Adams Lane

  8. #8
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    Default Wayland Transparency? Not!

    What transpired at the Board of Selectmen meeting on 9/26 was the biggest travesty this town has experienced in decades and proof that those who sought office on the campaign promise of transparency in town government have no such intentions.

    The agenda item read: Review Town Administrator Employment Agreement and Job Description

    The reality: three members of the Board of Selectmen, Tony Boschetto, Edward Collins and Doug Leard, railroaded the firing of our Town Administrator, Fred Turkington.

    How can this be? How can such an incredibly important issue be dealt with in such an underhanded manner with no opportunity for input from the community? Why is our town now known as the town to stay away from?

    Because a small and very vocal group of people have destroyed Wayland's credibility that so many good people built up for so many years. This small group constantly sues our town and our boards costing Wayland large amount of taxpayer dollars to defend the suits. This small group has devastated the ranks of those willing to serve on volunteer committees through their haranguing and personal verbal assaults. And now this small group is going after our paid employees completely eliminating any prospects of hiring qualified individuals.

    Thanks to this small but vocal group, our town is now the laughing stock of our peer communities. Wayland used to be known as the town that supported its elected officials and stood behind our employees and maintained our services. Now we are the shining example of what is the least desirable situation in local town government.

    This travesty is not limited to the Board of Selectmen. The campaign promise of transparency was a ruse to dismantle all that is good in Wayland. I for one am not going to take this any more. I urge you to voice your concerns to Town Boards in writing and through public comment. Please stop the devastation and return Wayland to its greatness.

  9. #9
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    Default Add to the Question List: What are we expecting from the Assistant Town Administrator

    Adding to the question list:

    Below are job descriptions for the Assistant Town Administrator and Town Administrator.


    The discussion indicated that Tony's expectation was that the Assistant Town Administrator would take on the role of the Town Administrator (without adding a new assistant) until a new Town Administrator was hired (without indicating how quickly the replacement process would be undertaken)

    Is it reasonable and legal to require the Assistant Town Administrator to take on the responsibilities of the Town Administrator (presumably in addition to his existing responsibilities) without adjusting his salary and job description.

    Was this considered as part of the motion to terminate Fred? It appears not.

  10. #10
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    Default My Letter to the Selectmen

    I submitted the following to the Board of Selectmen this morning to lodge my complaint over the handling of the termination of Fred Turkington's contract. I also posted this on the Wayland Patch in the Wayland Over Wayland blog under the title "Is there any other explanation?"
    ------------------


    I am writing to ensure that my outrage over the behavior of the Board of Selectmen on Monday night is formally logged. This letter is directed to the three members who voted to terminate the Town Administrator's contract.

    I have watched the video of those 19 minutes several times now. It left me stunned and confused and with questions. I have made an earnest effort to contact the Chairman (four email messages, two phone calls and six text messages since Monday), but have yet to receive any reply. I am having difficulty coming up with an explanation for what transpired other than:

    (1) that the decision was pre-planned, and therefore probably in violation of Open Meeting Laws. If deliberations took place outside of the public view, even if done one on one and then again one on one, they still may well violate Open Meeting Laws. If this was done in a willful attempt to circumvent the Open Meeting Laws, that would be such an extreme abuse of office that I think all three Selectmen involved should immediately resign.

    or

    (2) that the decision was not pre-planned, and that instead three selectmen voted to terminate a long-term employee with pay and without cause without offering any discussion whatsoever as to the merits of the proposal; without considering the impact this might have on the Town's ability to attract qualified candidates to future posts (and we need now to not only hire a new High School principal, but also to replace Mr. Turkington), without considering the impact this move might have on current town employees, without considering whether there were any other alternate approaches to ending the relationship if the Board majority found it so toxic.

    If the Chair was surprised by the motion, as he said he was, I am flabbergasted at how he was able to make "one of the most difficult decisions [he] ever made" in less than 20 minutes without any discussion, without any specific arguments specifying why it was a good idea. If he wasn't surprised by the motion, then he simply lied as he clearly stated he had not seen it before. Either way, the behavior is simply inexplicable.

    These explanations amount to either unethical behavior or incompetence and a failure to fulfill fiduciary duties. Is there another explanation? If so, your silence has not offered any.

    Further, you gentlemen do know that "without cause" does not mean "without reason"? You inexplicably interpreted "without cause" to mean that you couldn't talk about any reasons at all. Cause means "criminal acts and/or acts of misfeasance or malfeasance, willful misconduct", etc. You could certainly have discussed how his performance or his working philosophy did not support the direction you wanted to move in without implying "cause". You know or should have known this. But you used it as an excuse not to have a public discussion. Worse, your not wanting to discuss the cause could easily have given the impression that there really was a "just cause" you were trying not to discuss, implying that Fred really had done something wrong. This is utterly unacceptable.

    Doug wrote this for his WaylandeNews Q&A when he ran for Selectmen:

    I will advocate for better accountability to Wayland residents, greater emphasis on budgetary efficiencies in all departments, better communication in town government and an emphasis on TRUST! I sincerely believe that a town wide adoption of this basic philosophy by town government and the Wayland community will renew the trust and confidence we all need from one another. I can sincerely appreciate all the time and effort and dedication displayed by all town boards and committee members. At times their positions are challenging but we must remember we all work for all Wayland residents and our actions speak so much louder than our campaign words.


    Actions indeed speak so much louder than campaign words. And certainly louder than spoken words (but perhaps not all that much louder than the utter silence from the three of you). I am disturbed by the actions that I saw on Monday night, and disappointed that no explanation or willingness to communicate has been offered.

    This is not the way Town Government should be run. This Board - unethical, incompetent and/or uncommunicative - should be ashamed.

    Note: This posting is my work individually, and has not been reviewed or endorsed by the WaylandeNews editorial board.

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