Barnstable Town Manager Search Committee Erupts In Discord

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Town Councilor James Crocker, at right, takes issue with councilors who say the town manager search process has been flawed. Behind him is Town Councilor Erik Steinhilber, chairman of the search committee. Town Councilor Ann Canedy is at left and at large search committee member Phyllis Miller of Cotuit is at center. Not pictured are committee members Town Councilor Paul Hebert, committee vice chair Sara Cushing, and at large member John Crow.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO
Town Councilor James Crocker, at right, takes issue with councilors who say the town manager search process has been flawed. Behind him is Town Councilor Erik Steinhilber, chairman of the search committee. Town Councilor Ann Canedy is at left and at large search committee member Phyllis Miller of Cotuit is at center. Not pictured are committee members Town Councilor Paul Hebert, committee vice chair Sara Cushing, and at large member John Crow.

HYANNIS – A committee charged with finding a new town manager for Barnstable erupted in discord at its meeting Tuesday night.

Barnstable Town Councilor Sara Cushing, who is vice chair of the Town Manager Search Committee, said, she had a conversation with the Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti last Friday and asked her to disband the committee.

She said the crux of the issue is that Rapp-Grassetti is tasked with forming the committee but that the perception is that her lack of response in the process to date has been part of the problem.

“How can the one person who is tasked with making the committee who is part of the communication process have the support of the council if some of the council feels the process is or isn’t flawed,” Cushing said.

Cushing said it is obvious that there are concerns among the councilors of the path they are on, as those concerns were expressed during the committee’s report to the council. She said she believes the issue needs to be brought before the full council this week.

She said those flaws were pointed out by a consultant at the search committee’s last meeting.

Two town councilors, Jennifer Cullum and Frederick Chirigotis, who are not on the search committee, spoke during the public comment at the committee’s meeting last night.

Both also said the search committee should be disbanded.

Cullum said she is concerned that the committee has gone far off track. She said the process of forming the committee and choosing the members was not open and her constituents in Hyannis feel excluded. She also said the committee should be disbanded and reformed with an open and transparent process of choosing at-large members.

“I guess it’s no secret that I’ve been really concerned about this process from the get go, from the charge of the committee to the formation of the committee and everything that seems to run down hill after that,” Cullum said. “I think Councilor Hebert said it eloquently last week when he said, ‘If you know you’re going down the wrong path, why do you continue to go down the path.’”

Cullum said the consultant at the last meeting did everything but admonish the committee on the process.

“I have grave concerns about the charge of this committee. It’s been a series of putting the cart before the horse every single step of the way. And yet we’re still doing it,” Cullum said.

She said that if she had been a committee member, she would have questioned the charge immediately rather than going forward as the committee has done.

Chirigotis also said the committee’s process has been flawed. He said the town manager was forced into opting not to seek a contract renewal because of the search process. He said if there is any search, it should begin with internal candidates.

“The process is first we do an evaluation of the town manager. We did that. It was a glowing evaluation, if I might say so. Then we poisoned and created a toxic environment so that he had to leave. There was no way the town manager was going to stay when there was a battle between him and the council president and a majority of the councilors. So that’s where the process goes wrong. The process goes wrong when we sit down to reassess the town manager’s job description but during that process we talk about how we use that to hire the next town manager. That’s where we’ve gone off the track,” Chirigotis said. “The public perception is that this is not an open and transparent process.”

Chirigotis said the full council should decide the process moving forward.

“The question becomes number one, what was the problem with the town manager that we had. No one knows that. And number two, why are we going with a worldwide external search when we have candidates in house that haven’t been looked at or vetted,” he said.

But Town Councilor James Crocker, who is on the search committee, strongly objected to the councilors who said the process has been flawed.

“You’re not going to call me part of an integrity that’s been violated, because I haven’t violated anything. There’s a mission statement. We all stepped up. We’re all volunteering our time and we’re just making recommendations. So let’s keep it on course for what it is. This wasn’t anything about us getting anyone whose already involved in town management in this process. This was about us getting a process to find a professional to assist. That’s all this was,” he said.

He said the only problem was the mission statement given to the committee by Rapp-Grassetti.

“What’s flawed is the mission statement that was given to this committee. That’s got nothing to do with this committee. This committee gets a mission statement and goes to work,” he said.

But he said the committee has done nothing wrong in seeking to complete the mission as charged by Rapp-Grassetti.

“If the process was failed, it’s from this outside source that keeps telling us we needed to do something different with the manager process. We were never in charge of the manager process. We were in charge of deciding a process for vetting a professional to assist the council. It was only advisory,” he said.

Two of the search committee members, Town Councilor Eric Steinhilber, who serves as the committee chairman, and Town Councilor Ann Canedy, both said they thought the consultant last week overstepped his bounds in telling them their process was flawed.

But Town Councilor Paul Hebert, who is also on the search committee, said the consultant only spoke about the process after Hebert himself expressed concern that the committee had gone off track.

Also at last night’s meeting, the Town Manager Search Committee voted to ask the town council for $22,500 to hire a search firm to conduct a global search for a town manager.

Cullum said she would not support the committee’s request for funds because, she said, the process is flawed.

By LAURA M. RECKFORD, CapeCod.com News Editor

Comments

  1. P Jamieson says:

    Just another $22,500 taxpyers money wasted. Global search my foot.

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