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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » The Contract Limbo

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October 26, 2013

The Contract Limbo

by at 9:13 pm.

What is going on in Dracut?

… a contract between Mr Bucuzzo and Dracut failed because of restrictions in the charter.

The current charter was approved in 1985, a copy of which you can find in the downloads section on the right of this page. (Click Here - Jack)

There are a number of provisions that could be of concern to an incoming Manager.

First, the charter does not allow for a time limit on a contract, only for a hiring agreement. It was the intent at the time, as explained in the introduction, that he or she “serve at the will of the Board of Selectmen, and may be dismissed by a simple majority of that Board.”

In a community such as Dracut, where politics and blame often overcome discourse, I could see an incoming manager being concerned about this section. Just witness the recent attacks against Mr Piendak.

Hmmm.. Protection from petty, kneejerk, pandering politics? In this regard, how different is Lowell from Dracut? Sometimes, even when everything is chill between the ‘electeds’ and the ‘appointeds,’ there can be simple ‘misunderstandings.’ Enter the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association (MMMA):
The Massachusetts Municipal Management Association (MMMA) is a professional association dedicated to serving appointed chief and assistant municipal managers and administrators in Massachusetts cities and towns. The MMMA was established in the mid-1970s, exists under its parent organization, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and presently has about 250 members.

Wait, just one cotton pickin’ minute! I’ve been listenin’ to Councilor Ed Kennedy at the last several forums. He says the whole ‘professional City Manager’ thing is recent history. “the mid-1970s?” How could that be?! Maybe, he just means here in Lowell. I could see that. And, this,”… presently has about 250 members. ..?” No freeking way! Ed Kennedy said that most of the municipalities in the Commonwealth don’t get into all this ‘professional’ mumbo jumbo. Did he say that, or something like that? I get confused when C.Kennedy doesn’t simply Ditto whatever C.Elliott blurts.

You know how I feel about the mealy mouthed candidates that are tap dancing around keeping the current City Manager on.
Rourke is “Anti …. Contract.” Bah! & John Leahy’s Gambit
It’s not like LiL doesn’t keep tabs on this subject: The Santa Clause, Lunch Time Heartburn, & UPDATED: Leahy’s Leap. Alright. That’s enough reminiscing for me.

Let’s face it. The “contract” symbolizes the Council’s support and commitment to a professional style of management.

Municipal Manager Employment
The nature of municipal management has evolved, and the need for “professional” management continues to grow. Municipalities today are complex organizations operating under a wide array of local, state, and federal laws, as well as local policies, customs and traditions. Modern cities and towns, regardless of their formal structure, recognize the value and necessity of having a professional manager to facilitate the day-to-day operations and business of the municipal corporation. These communities seek to recruit and retain the most highly qualified professionals they can afford. In turn, highly qualified municipal administrators seek to serve in communities that recognize the value of professional management, and that understand the importance of clearly defined terms of employment and service.

Written employment agreements are used to avoid misunderstandings on the part of either party. It is in the interests of both the community and the manager to have a written summary of terms and conditions of employment and service to which both parties have agreed. The stable working environment created by a formal agreement helps attract and keep top-flight managers in what has become an increasingly challenging profession with a shrinking pool of qualified candidates.

Statutory authority for municipal manager employment agreements is provided in the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 41, Section 108N.

Here we have the statute provided on the State website. I’ve add links to the cited sections of the M.G.L.

Chapter 41: Section 108N Town manager, administrator, executive secretary, or administrative assistant; employment contract
Section 108N. Notwithstanding the provision of any general or special law to the contrary, any city or town acting through its board of selectmen or city council or mayor with the approval of the city council, as the case may be, may establish an employment contract for a period of time to provide for the salary, fringe benefits, and other conditions of employment, including but not limited to, severance pay, relocation expenses, reimbursement for expenses incurred in the performances of duties or office, liability insurance, and leave for its town manager, town administrator, executive secretary, administrative assistant to the board of selectmen, town accountants, city auditor or city manager, or the person performing such duties having a different title.

Said contract shall be in accordance with and subject to the provisions of the city or town charter and shall prevail over any conflicting provision of any local personnel by-law, ordinance, rule, or regulation. In addition to the benefits provided municipal employees under chapters thirty-two and thirty-two B, said contract may provide for supplemental retirement and insurance benefits.

Nothing contained in this section shall affect the appointment or removal powers of any city or town over its town manager, town administrator, executive secretary, administrative assistant to the board of selectmen, town accountants, city auditor or city manager, or such person performing such duties with a different title, nor shall it grant tenure to such officer, nor shall it abridge the provisions of section sixty-seven of chapter forty-four.

The Boo Birds and Bernie Bashers foolishly try to convince us that a contract benefits no one, but Bernie Lynch. That’s BULLSHIT!

By, creating a gap between operations and politics, the ‘professional City Manager’ has breathing room to escape the influences of direct lobbies from private business interests, municipal unions, The Sun & neighborhood activists. Not hungry for votes, the CM, under Plan E, can make preferred long term decisions under acute political duress.

When a CM is in bed with politics, we get this:

Been there! Done that!

Don’t vote for Belanger, Kennedy, Leahy or Rourke.

6 Responses to “The Contract Limbo”

  1. sd Says:

    Kennedy needs a history lesson. Lincoln Steffens unearthed the issues of corruption and municipal mismanagement in his 1904 book “The Shame of the Cities”. The progressive era led to reforms of city governments with the development of City Manager and City Commissioner plans of government. Appointed Planning Boards and other community boards were also first established at this time, to put the control of certain decisions in the hands of subject-matter experts with a long-term view on the future of the city. Staunton Virginia appointed a city manager in 1908. Dayton Ohio switched to a council/manager government in 1913. By 1935 there were over 400 council/manager governments in the US. The entire purpose of a ‘city manager’ system is to take the management role out of the hands of a politician, and put it into the hands of somebody who understands management.

    Lowell is a bit unique in their history of appointing politicians to be managers. Even more odd is Lowell’s tradition of appointing legilators to the role of city manager. The skills set of a legislator is so significantly different than that of a city manager. Legilstors are trained to deal, trained to trade favors and trained to work in a highly charged political system. They rarely manage anything larger than a very small staff. They don’t balance large budgets. They don’t make difficult decisions about tax programs. They don’t have to hire subject-matter experts to run a successful government operation.

  2. sd Says:

    BTW: Seriously? Kennedy? Talking about and questioning the need for professional leadership in Lowell? Does anybody remember how much he bombed the interview for City Manager? Does anybody remember that whole copy machine / county worker thing that cost him a state ethics fine? Seriously? He should learn not to talk about that which he does not understand.

  3. Brian Flaherty Says:

    Did you catch in the Column today that Chairwoman Cathy Richardson had her boyfriend make the call to the Town Manager pick to let him know they were going in another direction.

    Her boyfriend.

    This guy: http://onebaddecisionawayfromhomelessness.wordpress.com/tag/bill-mcmahon/

  4. Jack Says:

    At the sake of sounding like a hateful Democrat, I never thought much of Cathy Richardson’s hollow conservatism. A diluted and convoluted mish mash of Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter. Though, to be fair, I barely pay attention. The parroting makes me break contact.

  5. Jade Says:

    Mr. Flaherty posted:

    “Did you catch in the Column today that Chairwoman Cathy Richardson had her boyfriend make the call to the Town Manager pick to let him know they were going in another direction.”

    This was very, very unprofessional and disrespectful of Ms. Richardson to do. She should have known better.

    To be fair, it should also be noted that when the vote was taken to select Mr. Bucuzzo as Dracut’s next town manager, a roll call vote was taken. Every selectperson mentioned Mr. Bucuzzo by name except Mr. Dirocco, who responded, ya….that one. check the tape. Very rude…..and telling!

  6. Jade Says:

    Jack posts:

    “Let’s face it. The “contract” symbolizes the Council’s support and commitment to a professional style of management.”

    I agree Jack, and having a proven manager at the helm who has a notable track record of success, and has demonstrated a very high return on the investment made by the city council and the taxpayers of Lowell is important to retain. Lets face it, a city manager is the ultimate scapegoat when power shifts after an election, it’s a risky game. And it is going to cost the Lowell tax payers far more to do another recruitment and to try and get another experienced professional manager, than to simply give a quality person a substantive contract, and pay them what they are worth. A contract is in the best interest of the city of Lowell in the long term.

    Experienced, knowledgeable and successful professional city managers are hard to come by these days. The market has become very competitive. Just look at Dracut’s dilemma.

    As was mentioned by Chris Scott in the Lowell Sun Column:

    “WHILE SELECTMEN and Bucuzzo have vowed to keep secret exactly what went on for two months in their closed-door negotiating sessions, Bucuzzo and Vice Chairman Joe DiRocco dropped strong hints that restrictive wording in the 1985 Town Charter is to blame.

    The charter states in part that, “the Board of Selectmen shall appoint a town manager without term,” Such an employment agreement, in significant contrast to a multiyear contract, leaves any Dracut town manager vulnerable to being voted out at any moment by a majority of the five-member board.

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