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Cullenen confirms upcoming departure

Selectmen explain how decision came about

August 04, 2010
ASHLAND — At the Ashland selectmen's meeting on Monday evening, it was revealed that a majority of the board had decided to not renew Town Administrator Tim Cullenen's contract.

The board also awarded the contract for the energy audit of town buildings, hired a temporary part-time office worker for the police department, and discussed several other issues.

That Cullenen will be leaving his position as town administrator on Sept. 28 was revealed at a previous selectmen's meeting, but the selectmen could not comment on why he was departing, saying that it was a private personnel issue and that the town administrator would have to agree to reveal what had happened.

When asked about the town administrator position at Monday's meeting, Chairman Sandra Coleman again said that the matter could not be publicly discussed without Cullenen's consent.

Noting that the facts were already widely known in the community, Cullenen consented to revealing what had happened. Selectman Dennis Potter then explained that the selectmen, by a split vote, had decided at a non-public session to not renew Cullenen's contract, which expires on Sept. 28. When asked about what would happen to the town administration after Cullenen leaves, Selectman Jeanette Stewart explained that the selectmen had not yet discussed the issue as a board.

The issue was complicated by the question of whether or not Cullenen was due the 16 weeks of severance pay mentioned in his contract. As the town is operating on a tight budget, the amount of severance pay could impact the funds available to pay a new town administrator.

As the severance pay question was a personnel issue, the selectmen went into non-public session. Cullenen declined to take part in the non-public session without legal representation.

It was stated after the non-public session that the severance pay question will be referred to the town attorneys, and that no decision was made on what to do with the town administration following Cullenen's departure. The selectmen did discuss their options, including having the selectmen and department heads run the town or hiring an interim administrator, during the non-public session. (Two other issues involving town employees were also covered in the non-public session.)

The selectmen had reviewed the 13 proposals for an energy audit of town buildings at a work session the previous week. The state has awarded a $7,200 grant to the town for the audit.

Coleman explained that the consenus at the session was to hire McCormick Facilities Management Co. for the work, but no formal vote had been taken. Potter felt that the town administrator, who had written the grant proposal and the specifications for the proposals, should have been included in the work session.

When asked, Cullenen said that he felt McCormick Co. would do "an OK job." The selectmen then voted to give the audit contract to McCormick Co. for their base bid of $6,357. Subsequently, they amended their vote to increase the contract amount to $6,857 to allow for an additional presentation of the audit results.

Cullenen suggested that the selectmen should meet with McCormick Co. soon to review the scope of work, so that both parties would know what was expected. The selectmen agreed to such a meeting within the next week or so.

Cullenen pointed out that the audit had the potential to find long-term cost savings for the town.

On the recommendation of Police Chief Tony Randall, the selectmen hired Susan Appleby as a part-time police department office worker for about a month because of a temporary personnel shortage while other Department personnel take vacations.

Beth Bartlett has resigned as Health Officer. Coleman, who also serves as Deputy Health Officer, will be handling at least one on-going case until the Health Officer vacancy is filled.

Revised plans for the River Street bridge project were submitted by Holden Engineering to the state Department of Transportation last month, but the town administrator had not heard yet what the state officials thought of them. The selectmen did vote at a prior meeting to pay the electric department for moving a utility pole to make way for the new bridge.

Selectman Bob Comeau reported that the electric department will hold off on collecting that money until the project bills are paid, as the state will be picking up 80 percent of the tab. Discussion of the Sanborn Road project was delayed until another day, as the Highway Agent was unable to attend the meeting.

The town administrator explained that both the Bike Week Swap Meet and the Squam Lakes Arts and Music Festival lost money this year, although he could not yet say how much.

Selectman Leigh Sharps said that the Canoe and Kayak Poker Run held the previous weekend had been fun for all involved.

The selectmen approved a raffle permit for the Woman's Club.

Bob Boyle acknowledged that the water and sewer commission had not been able to get a quorum for two recent meetings, but had been able to get their work done at a special meeting.

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