Barnstable Town Manager Taken by Surprise in News of Town Manager Search

CCB MEDIA FILE PHOTO Barnstable Town Manager Thomas Lynch, Town Councilor Sara Cushing, Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald, Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells and Police Lt. Michael Clark at a ribbon-cutting for a new police substation in 2014.

Barnstable Town Manager Thomas Lynch, Town Councilor Sara Cushing, Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald, Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells and Police Lt. Michael Clark at a ribbon-cutting for a new police substation in 2014.

HYANNIS – One Cape Cod town manager was taken by surprise this week that a search was about to proceed to replace him.

Barnstable Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti of Cotuit said earlier this week that she intends to form a Town Manager Search Committee and to consider whether to hire a search firm to help the town hire a new town manager.

A Town Manager Search Committee is listed among the 56 committees on the town of Barnstable’s website.

But Barnstable Town Manager Thomas Lynch, who has served as town manager since 2011, said that was news to him and he is interested in keeping the job. He said he had no idea a search committee was about to be formed.

He found out when a reporter asked him about it on Tuesday.

“Following the disclosure that they were looking to create a search committee, I asked if they were interested in sitting down for a contract extension discussion and was told the town council president would get back to me on that,” Lynch said yesterday.

Rapp-Grassetti said Monday that she plans to form the search committee soon, since the Committee to Analyze Management Practice and Policies (CAMPP), a town council subcommittee she formed this spring, has wrapped up the task she gave it: to update the town manager job description.

“My next task is to form a town manager search committee,” she said. She said a request for proposals and a procurement process may be necessary for the town to find an executive search firm.

The firm can turn the job description into an advertisement for a town manager, she said.

Rapp-Grassetti said, one of the town council’s only administrative functions is to appoint a town manager.

“That’s a major, major decision by the council, who they put in that leadership position,” she said.

When asked if she had inquired if the current town manager was interested in staying in the job, Rapp-Grassetti said she meets weekly with Lynch. “I think he would have come to me if he wanted the position,” she said.

Rapp-Grassetti said she asked Barnstable Human Resources Director William Cole about the length of time needed to find a new town manager.

Cole said the process could take 18 months, Rapp-Grassetti said. So, Rapp-Grassetti said she formed the CAMPP subcommittee in preparation for a town manager search, to take the first steps by updating the town manager job description so it would be ready for applicants who might be interested in the position.

The CAMPP committee, which is chaired by Town Councilor James Crocker of Osterville, is scheduled to have its last meeting tonight at 6:30, just before the town council meeting.

Rapp-Grassetti said the committee is due to make a presentation to the town council about the job description.

The presentation is not on the town council’s agenda and could come near the beginning of the meeting under the general agenda item of “Communications,” which includes committee reports.

Crocker said the job description had not been updated since 1998 and the town council was remiss in not updating the language in the document sooner. He said it should have been updated prior to the current town manager receiving a contract extension.

He said the job description has been brought in line with the language in the town charter about the role of the town manager.

The town council completed an evaluation of Lynch, who is 69 years old, earlier this year in which his overall mark was, “exceeds expectations.”

Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum chaired the town manager evaluation subcommittee.

In her remarks to the town council about the results of the review at the council’s meeting on February 26, she said, “The score showed Town Manager Tom Lynch executes his job at a level that exceeds expectations, which is what we all thought would happen. He is very diligent.”

After Cullum presented her report, Rapp-Grassetti announced that she would be forming the CAMPP committee.

Crocker said the committee had been tasked with two roles, to update the job description and “should a search be forthcoming” to recommend whether the town should hire an outside professional search firm or have the in-house staff work on the process.

He said the CAMPP committee invited a number of people in to give presentations. In addition to Cole, they had Warren Rutherford, who formerly served as Barnstable town manager and now runs an executive search firm, and Robert Lawton, the former town manager for Yarmouth, who also now consults on management searches.

He said Tom Lynch was not brought in to make a presentation to the committee by design, because they wanted to have people who had no vested interest in the position.

But when asked about a town manager search, Crocker said it is “not on the radar at this time.” He said he had not had any discussion with the town manager about whether he was interested in the job.

The matter of whether the town manager was interested in the job was also brought up at the first meeting of the CAMPP committee.

According to the minutes of the April 1 meeting, Town Councilor John Norman asked if the current town manager had expressed an interest in serving another term.

Rapp-Grassetti responded, according to the minutes, that he “has never approached or said anything to her regarding this.”

Crocker then said, according to the minutes, “To be fair, he has never expressed interest one way or another as to yes he would be interested or no he would not.”

There was no mention of Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells, who has been working for the town for more than 25 years. Prior to being chosen as assistant town manager, he headed up the Barnstable Department of Public Works.

Rapp-Grassetti said she believes the town is functioning very well. “A lot of that is due to very strong department heads,” she said.

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