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

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  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
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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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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    Default

    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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    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.

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