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Thread: Transcript of Board of Selectmen Meeting 8/26/13 - termination of Fred Turkington

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    Nov 2005

    Post Transcript of Board of Selectmen Meeting 8/26/13 - termination of Fred Turkington

    The following is an unofficial transcript of the parts of the Board of Selectmen Meeting that related to the firing of Town Administrator Fred Turkington. Several places are marked with [ ] where the audio was difficult to make out (sometimes with question marks). If anyone has corrections, please feel free to note them in a reply or to email me at

    This transcript was developed from the video [posted online here] (note: numbers in brackets at the start of each line refer to the time mark in the video)

    [2:06] Steve: Mr. Chairman, before we start Public Comment, could we just clarify #4, the purpose. I'm just curious, "Review Town Administrator's Employment Agreement and Job Description." I asked three times since I got the agenda what the purpose of that line item is. I'm not sure why it appeared this evening. I didn't get a response. Just wondering what's the purpose of that line item this evening?

    [2:31] Doug: First of all, I sent you a response.

    [2:34] Steve: No, you didn't.

    [2:35] Doug: I did. I sent you a text message, and I told you to call Tony instead of-

    [2:38] Steve: I asked you-

    [2:40] Doug: Let me finish, I said Tony is the one that proposed this. If you have any questions, speak to Tony.

    [2:43] Steve: I asked the Chair to get back to me on what the purpose of the agenda item. You do the agenda, Doug. You approved it. I asked you what the purpose of the item is. You put it on there.

    [2:57] Doug: The purpose is to review Tom Administrator's Employment Agreement and Job Description

    [3:01] Steve: That is the review item. What is the purpose? What are we going to be accomplishing? His contract isn't up. What is the purpose of it? What are we going to be discussing?

    [3:08] Doug: We'll talk about it when we get to that point.

    [3:10] Steve: I want to know now what is the purpose so I that can at least think about it as we come to it.

    [3:15] Doug: You're taking it out of order.

    [3:16] Steve: No, I'm asking. You just went over the agenda, and I am asking what is the purpose of the agenda item? I asked three times.

    [3:26] Doug: It is to discuss the Town Administrator Employment Agreement. Tony has proposed it. If you want to ask Tony.

    [3:30] Steve: No, I'm asking you, Doug.

    [3:32] Doug: I just told you. I think we're all set.

    [3:34] Steve: You put it on the agenda.

    [3:36] Doug: OK, Public comment.

    [3:36] Steve: I'd just like to make a public notice that I asked three times what the purpose of this was, and I didn't get a response.


    [27:25] Doug: Shall we do Town Administrator Employment Agreement and Job Description?

    [27:30] Tony: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you putting this on the agenda. And I had the time to look closely at the contract, and Mr. Chairman, I have a motion. [----- and passing out papers] I gave a lot of thought to this, before I drafted this motion, and I think it's the right direction for the town, and once I make the motion, we can discuss it. I move, Sir, that the Board of -

    [28:04] Steve: Excuse me, this is unbelievable. I asked three times, Mr. Chairman, what the purpose of this was. How can I talk about this motion without being prepared?

    [28:15] Doug: This is the first time I've seen it. So-

    [28:17] Steve: Mr. Chairman, you should have asked.

    [28:18] Doug: And I told you, I'm not going to get into -

    [28:20] Steve: You're the Chair who is responsible for the agenda.

    [28:24] Joe: If a board member asks to have a discussion of something-- There's been a lot of talk in town about transparency, and this doesn't seem like a very transparent [ ---]. It seems essentially if you prepared a document, why wasn't that document shared with the members of the board? Why couldn't I have looked at this this afternoon, and contemplated what was going on?

    [28:42] Steve: How can we have any discussion--

    [28:45] Tony: By the open meeting law that's not a viable approach, the appropriate approach under Mass Laws is to have an agenda, make a motion to discuss the motion, and part of that discussion --

    [28:56] Joe: Well, I would like to suggest that this motion be tabled until we can have an opportunity to consider it

    [29:04] Tony: Joe, no one has seconded my motion yet, so why don't I make my motion, and if it doesn't get seconded then we can discuss the appropriate way to dispose of it.

    [29:13] Joe: Go ahead.

    [29:14] Tony: Sir, I move that the Board of Selectmen terminate the employment contract of Frederic E. Turkington Jr. as Town Administrator effective immediately, August 26, 2013 without cause under the terms of Section 7B of said contract. He shall be immediately relieved of all duties, and the Assistant Town Administrator shall serve as Interim Town Administrator in all matters until the Board of Selectmen appoint a permanent replacement, and the Board of Selectmen shall schedule a meeting with all the department heads with the purpose of creating interim management structure. A written copy of this motion is approved by the Board of Selectmen and presented by hand to Mr. Turkington this evening on August 26, 2013, and serves as written notice of the terms of Section 7B of said contract. Mr. Turkington shall meet with a representative of the Board of Selectmen and Assistant Town Administrator at 9am on August 27, 2013 in the Town Administrator's office for the purpose of returning all Town assets in his possession and collecting his personal belongings. All compensation and benefits accorded Mr. Turkington under the terms of this agreement shall be paid to Mr. Turkington.

    [30:13] Doug: All right, we have the motion. Do we have a second to discuss?

    [30:17] Ed: I'll second.

    [30:20] Doug: OK, we're open for discussion.

    [30:22] Tony: Can I speak to my motion?

    [30:23] Doug: Yes, please do.

    [30:24] Tony: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, as I've said, I've given a lot of thought over the last few months about the direction of the Town and the Town Administrator's contract, and in the direction we want to move as a Town for our [inaudible] and I believe that this motion made tonight is in the best interest of our citizens and in the best interest of Mr. Turkington. I think it's time that the Town move in a new direction and part of that new direction we need new leadership, and in fairness to Mr. Turkington, I believe that this approach is the most fair to him, and provides him with the best opportunity to find gainful employment, and the greatest opportunity for him under the contract. And that's why I come forth tonight. In a sense of fairness to this Town and to Mr. Turkington, I believe this action is the most fair to all parties.

    [31:19] Joe: Why? Just because you think we want to go in a new direction?

    [31:22] Tony: That is correct, Sir.

    [31:22] Joe: So we have a contract employee who we've contracted with for a period of time, who has - you're not claiming he's done anything illegal. You're not claiming - you need -- You're exposing the town to substantial severance. If you want to take a director, or the administrator, and want to have a conversation as a board, this is where I get to the transparency thing, then bring it up, and say "let's have a talk." Don't come in here and throw out "I want to fire Fred." And if you the three of you go with him and do this without a constructive dialogue including the department [ ] and an analysis of how he [ ], I would be shocked and embarrassed. It's not right. Now, I might vote to agree with you in the long-run, but have the dialogue. Have the guts, you shouldn't have the guts to fire the guy. What is the severance in this contract?

    [32:23] Steve: I don't know. I can't vote on this -- I was [asking about] the packages.

    [32:29] Tony (to Steve): you signed the contract.

    [32:31] Steve: Yes, but I have no way of preparing for this evening.

    [32:36] Joe: We weren't told, let's discuss this.

    [32:37] Steve: First off, the way we run meetings --

    [32:40] Doug: First of all, let Joe finish what he had to say.

    [32:44] Joe: I think it's - any member is well within their rights to make a motion. But Mr. Chairman, I'm very surprised that are allowing - this is -- I'm sure Fred feels like it's an ambush. If you want to have a constructive dialog, about the future of our Town Administrator who's worked for this town for how long, Fred?

    [33:00] Fred: Eight years.

    [33:01] Joe: Eight years. You're going to come up here, and this is something you've been - how long have you been on this board?

    [33:05] Tony: [ ]

    [33:06] Joe: Four months? And you're just, "this is the way the Town is and we're going to fire him." Doesn't matter how much we have to pay in additional taxes to wipe out his contract. Doesn't matter - you can't have a constructive dialogue with Fred and say, "you know we want to move, you know, why as Chairman wouldn't you sit down with the Town Administrator before you pull something like this and say--

    [33:28] Doug: I didn't -

    [33:28] Joe: before it was allowed? and talk and say, "hey look it, we want to move in a different direction, Fred." The rest of us, my understanding was that he was a subject of review, and that's why I was very surprised to see a talk of "the contract". I don't think this is a talk of the contract. You might as well just put on the agenda, "motion to fire Town Administrator". And I'm just shocked. This isn't transparent. This isn't a dialogue of the board, weighing the pros and cons of the administrator's performance, the cost of getting out of the contract, the timeliness of hiring a new Town Administrator, and what the benefits of that are to the Town. This is just an ambush. I think it's unfortunate. I've never seen- I'm embarrassed.

    [34:08] Doug: Joe, I would say that just looking at the contact, there is termination for just - for cause and termination without cause. There is for just cause, which means, I guess you gotta come up with some sort of reasoning. And without cause the paragraph that's in the contract says the Board may terminate Turkington in this agreement anytime without cause by giving Turkington written notice, and it goes on and on.

    [34:36] Joe: OK, so what's the penalty for that? What does that cost, do you happen to know Fred contemplating

    [34:45] Doug: it's right there.

    [34:46] Joe: what is it?

    [34:47] Tony: Twelve months' salary.

    [34:48] Joe: Twelve months' salary?! What do you make a year Fred?

    [34:50] Fred: 150,000.

    [34:51] Joe: $150,000! We're not... We're just going to make a motion?!

    [34:52] Tony: Right.

    [34:53] Joe: $150,000 of the taxpayers money without having a discussion?! [Steve trying to talk as well]

    [34:59] Doug: let one person talk at a time.

    [35:01] Joe: I'll yield for now. I'm not done.

    [35:03] Steve: This is exactly the reason why as Chair setting up the agenda, you should have found out what this agenda item was all about. So that we could prepare, so that we could prepare a discussion of this issue this evening. You should have found out that that Mr. B- that Tony was going to be making a motion this evening to terminate Fred. This is the first time, talk about lack of transparency -- the way this board has always worked has, we have selectmen's reports, concerns and issues, and then we put those on the agenda and we discuss them. Mr. Turkington has been Town Administrator of this Town for eight years, I think we owe a little bit more to him than to have a discussion more than five minutes of his employment contract and terminating it, especially after he's had eight years of stellar performance reviews. There's no reason for this to be terminated. Stellar performance reviews. As a matter of fact, of all the ones I've looked at, all the ones I've been involved with, I've very rarely seen any place where he has not done his job. I think this totally lacks transparency, of where it's coming from, and lacks anybody from anywhere else in the town from being able to respond to it. So we're just going to terminate his employment contract without having heard from anybody else in this town regarding his contract. Talk abut lack of transparency? That's what you believe in, Tony, that's what you believe in. This is the type of transparency -- You campaigned on that, that this Town needed more transparency.

    [36:35] Tony: I'm very comfortable with the motion I made here tonight and the process I followed.

    [36:37] Joe: And you're comfortable with the paying 12 months severance? Rather than paying the experienced administrator for a period of time- you know, maybe if you talked to him like -- are you comfortable with [ ]

    [36:52] Tony: As I said, I've looked at the contract, and this is in the best in-

    [36:54] Joe: Look at Fred. Look at the person. You can't just say this is someone who's given eight years of service to the Town -

    [36:59] Steve: I'm not sure I want to be on a board that lacks this type of transparency and discussion. I really don't. I think it's quite incredible that we haven't had any discussion on the Town Administrator's performance, and you're firing him.

    [37:17] Tony: Let me re-characterize the statement you just made. I'm making a motion to terminate this contract without cause, which provides him the best opportunity to find gainful employment and the most opportunities for benefits. It'll make this an easiest transition for Fred, and it's in the best interest of Fred and the best interest of the Town.

    [37:38] Joe: Well, I certainly don't think it's in the best interest of the Town. I could never vote for this. I mean, Fred's been here eight years, and he's the head of the Massachusetts Municipal Association of Managers for the whole state. His 300 plus peers have elected him to lead that organization. I'm sure he'll have no problem finding a job. But I think it's an abomination that we sit up here and take a public servant -

    [37:57] Steve: I'm not sitting through this. This is bull. Talk about lack of transparency. I am sick of this.

    [38:05] Doug: Make a record that Steve Correia left at 7:42

    [38:11] Joe: To finish my point, I just think that this is rushed, I think it's contrived, I think it was preplanned out. I know that there was -- You know, I can count, and I understand politics. But come on, I also understand common decency, and the proper thing - I think it's a waste of Town money. If you want to make a transition, you do it over time. And I think that the right thing to do would be for the Chairman, or for the board to have an open discussion of the merits of this, rather than a motion just thrown out there. I'd like to, you know, contemplate- maybe look at some evidence and discuss it. I'm just shocked. I'm inclined to - you know, I don't blame Steve for walking out. I've never in all my years of public service seen such a -- you know, I was part of firing the DPW director. It was an extended process, and we deliberated over it, and we agreed though. This just seems -

    [39:11] Doug: Joe, I just think that what you've said is - it's with cause and without cause, and I think that with-

    [39:19] Joe: [-]

    [39:20] Doug: With cause, I mean you start interviewing people, and start coming - and then you -I'm just looking at the language here. I guess if it's with cause you end up having to come up with reasonings why. But the contract as written -

    [39:49] Joe: No one is questioning that this board has the ability to- The Town Administrator works at the will of the Board, and this Board, there are three members of the Board who are willing to take this motion without any deliberation and vote to terminate an employee, the Town Administrator, after eight years of service, I'd say, without having an extended dialogue. It certainly can happen, but it seems like there's a very interested crowd here, there doesn't seem to be any huge surprise that this was coming in some way, and frankly I think we should have had a discussion as a Board. As public servants, we owe more to the Town as elected officials to have a dialogue as to the pros and cons. Why don't we talk to the administrator about what we think he's done well or bad? And if you just think you want to move in another direction, you've got the votes. Go ahead and do it, guys. I won't be a party to it. I'll vote against it, and I honestly think it's insulting to the dedicated public servants, whether you want to vote him out or not - he's had eight years serving this town and it's an affront. I'm disgusted by it. To not even have a dialogue. So you've got your motion, you going to vote on it?

    [40:42] Doug: We have a motion. Do we have any further discussion?

    [40:44] Ed: No, I have nothing really to add to what's already been said. I understand the motion to be made under the provision of the agreement that Fred I presume participated in drafting that allows for termination without cause. I think if somebody exercises that provision the whole issue of discussing causes or possible causes or imagined causes, whatever you want to say is really irrelevant, so I think the real question is whether there should be a vote to terminate without cause. I think that's what the motion here is.

    [41:27] Tony: Any debate or discussion on the merits puts both Fred in a bad position as well as us as a Town in a bad position with respect to making a motion without cause. If we want to make a motion without cause there should be no such discussion on the merits of his performance.

    [41:47] Joe: How about the merits of making this decision to move in this direction? How about the merits of deciding as a town to incur the one-year's salary debt on our bottom line? To have the luxury of moving on another Town Ad- so you, you are comfortable saying "let's pay this guy a year's salary so we can get someone else in here right away?" So you can begin the process of getting someone else in here.

    [42:12] Tony: That payment, that expense won't hit until we actually replace someone, and I don't believe, I believe that's a somewhat timely process to find a replacement, in which case that expense will probably last over time, in which case that won't actually have any impact on our budget.

    [42:28] Joe: How can a contract in which you required to pay severance if you terminate somebody at will, why would you ever not have to pay that?

    [42:39] Tony: the budget offset is, it would only cost the town additional money when we replace the position.

    [42:44] Joe: So we don't have a Town Administrator. What about the value of going in to Town Meeting with any kind of semblance of -

    [42:51] Tony: I have complete confidence in our Assistant Town Administrator, and I have complete confidence in our department heads for this town to function properly, and we will continue to move in the direction we need to move.

    [43:05] Joe: I think this is... I don't blame Steve for walking out. But there's other business that I have to stay here for, but I completely understand - I feel like it. And I'll make that decision whether I want to come back, but I'll stay and do my business. I think this is an affront. I think this is an insult to Fred. Fred, I'm sorry that this board would attempt to make this kind of decision on your future without having the character to come up and talk to you directly about it, and have a dialogue about it. I'm sure - you're an adult and a gentleman, and you would have discussed, "ok, if we're moving in another direction..." there could have been a way to have done it amicably and probably saved the town a good amount of money, but this is just maximum exposure to the town, and a minimum of decency and courtesy. It's disgusting.

    [43:57] Doug: I mean, I still believe that to discuss issues, there is a complete difference between discussing issues and go with cause opens up other potential cans of worms.

    [44:17] Tony: And Joe, exactly for that purpose, because there's such a difficult process by which to have those open dialogues to make this process is exactly why there's such a high compensation for severance, it's because it is virtually impossible to terminate with cause and have that open dialogue.

    [44:36] Joe: We've worked with other employees when we wanted to go in another direction, and we did it like gentlemen, and we gave them some time to find another job, and we worked through it and we did it the best way for them and for the Town, and we weren't exposed to the same amount of --- I just didn't imagine - I am shocked. You guys have the votes. You guys run the Town. If all three of you are going to vote to fire Fred without a public discussion of it, go ahead. I just won't be a party to it.

    [45:01] Doug: All right, any other discussion?

    [45:05] Doug: We have a motion, it's seconded. Let's take the votes. All in favor, say "aye"

    [45:10] Ed and Tony: Aye

    [45:19] Doug: I'll say "aye" too. I guess I, I was the one that hired Fred. I was on the Board when we hired Fred. This is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. And it's not comfortable for sure. And again this is without cause, but for what it's worth, I offer my services to write any letters of recommendation for myself anyway and as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, if there's anything I can do to help, Fred, not that Fred needs my help, so, but uh, I,... Those opposed?

    [46:12] Joe: I would record emphatically no.

    [46:14] Doug: OK.

    [46:42] Doug: We need someone to meet with Fred tomorrow morning.

    [47:01] Tony: Joe, would you?

    [47:02] Joe: I'm not going to part of this. How did you guys know you had the votes? Why is everybody here, why is there such a big crowd here?

    [47:07] Tony: Joe, I had no idea [inaudible]

    [47:17] Doug: Are you available tomorrow morning, I mean I could juggle my schedule around.

    [47:27] Tony: I could come at 8 o'clock.

    [47:29] Doug: We'll talk about it.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 09-01-2013 at 07:55 AM.


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