Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
I’m watching the City Council Special Meeting to discuss and decide on the process for hiring a new City Manager. One item that popped up was worrisome. Kennedy brought forth the notion to “be up front” in the advertisement for the position and state there would be no contract. He made a motion for this in the meeting.
As you know, a lot hinges on this question, so this test was pivotal.
The usual suspects lined up on either side - Kennedy, Rourke, Belanger, and Elliot (presumably, he didn’t speak on this because he’s the chair) for putting this language in the ad, and Bill Samaras, Bill Martin, and Milinazzo against doing this, as it would “limit the pool of candidates” willing to apply. They brought up the fact that the pool of qualified candidates is already small enough as it is, and they also made the point they think a contract is a good idea.
The arguments on the other side were awful. One that needs addressing is, someone (Rourke? Or Belanger? - ed’s note: it was Rourke, as Dick’s notes show) tried to make the point that since the current Manager was leaving before the end of his contract, it’s obvious that the contract did no good for Lowell. How wrong they are.
I made this point before, but let’s reiterate: without a contract obligating Lynch to give 60 days notice, he could have left yesterday. Now, Lynch is a good professional and probably wouldn’t do this, but if he had no contract, he could have. Or, he could have given less notice; a month, or two weeks - almost as bad. Suffice it to say, with no CFO, with the assistant CM leaving in February, and budget season coming up rapidly, this would have totally hosed the city. So yeah, the contract actually saved our collective asses, even if you just count that one thing.
Also, just about every other city and town has a contract for their top administrator. (Someone made the point that in a strong mayor system, you essentially have a contract in that a mayor serves at least until the next election, unless in the rare case they resign mid-term.) Of course, Rita talked about Dracut and a [former] long term manager there, but let’s face it - Lowell is a whole different animal. Given the publicity around the CM position and Lowell’s history, and the nastiness that has permeated the entire last election and its aftermath (including last week’s meeting), and Elliott’s apparent willingness to violate at least the spirit of Plan E, Lowell is skating on thin ice. We’re already going to have trouble attracting the best and brightest applicants with a good solid resume.
So, it was with baited breath we awaited the two in the middle to speak. First, it was Rita, who quickly made the point that she didn’t want to limit the pool of candidates by using such language in the advertisement. Angels sang and light came down from the heavens. Thank you, Rita Mercier!
Leahy didn’t speak until nearly the end, but he reiterated Rita’s point of view. More angels and light! Thank you, John Leahy!
So the motion went down, 5-4. This doesn’t mean we’re in the clear - we have yet to see how many great applicants apply, and who gets to be in the final five for public interview, after all. It doesn’t mean that a contract will be offered, as it should be for the right candidate. But it does mean that a majority of this Council does not want to signal to the CM job market that they are unwilling to be above board and reasonable.
I would like to thank Rita Mercier and John Leahy again for their vote. It seems minor but it’s not. I think if you feel the same way, you should call them and thank them.
Update: Dick has his notes up about the Special Meeting already. That’s right, the bloggers are on the job!
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