Two Finalists For Top Barnstable Job Had Turbulent Relationships With Past Employers

Photo Courtesy LinkIn: Former Sandusky, Ohio City Manager and Barnstable Town Manager Finalist Nicole Ard.

Photo Courtesy LinkIn: Former Sandusky, Ohio City Manager and Barnstable Town Manager Finalist Nicole Ard.

HYANNIS – Two of the finalists for Barnstable’s town manager job have had rocky relationships with previous employers, including one who had to sue for severance pay she was owed.

Former Sandusky, Ohio City Manager Nicole Ard, who was among four finalists announced Thursday night by a search committee, was fired in March 2014 when new members of the city commission in Sandusky took office.

She later won a court ruling that enforced the payment of severance required under her at-will employment agreement.

Ard told the CapeCod.com NewsCenter that she did not file a wrongful termination lawsuit, as had been reported by local media in Ohio.

Ard said she actually filed a successful writ of mandamus that enforced the provisions of her contract, paying her $130,000 in pay, plus health care costs.

According to a ruling by the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth Appellate District Erie County, city commissioners fired Ard without cause and improperly withheld her severance.

A report in the Arizona Daily Sun said Ard was one of six finalists for the job of deputy city manager in Flagstaff, Arizona, but was ultimately not chosen.

Ard told CapeCod.com that she was excited to meet people when the Barnstable Town Council conducts full interviews next month.

Former Falmouth selectman and current Hanover Town Manager Troy Clarkson was also named Thursday as a finalist for the Barnstable job.

According to the Brockton Enterprise, Clarkson narrowly survived a vote to fire him in April 2013 by Hanover selectmen.

Before Clarkson was hired in Hanover, he was the town manager in Bridgewater, where he also faced a failed attempt to have him removed from that job, according to the Enterprise.

“Sometimes when you have a brand-new government, you have those growing pains and that’s what we experienced,” said Clarkson. “I think the citizens understood that, and some of the folks that led the fierce opposition to the new government were hence removed. It ended a very respectful and tranquil relationship and that kind of consensus-building, I think, is what I would try to bring to Barnstable.”

In Hanover, Clarkson and selectmen have clashed over the role of the town manager and communication issues. According the Enterprise, the conflict in Bridgewater centered around a recall attempt involving a town councilor.

In an online bio Clarkson posted on a local blog site, he describes himself as a “fiscal conservative and outspoken advocate for the integrity of our New England form of government.”

As a Falmouth selectman, Clarkson was involved in the siting of two controversial wind turbines that have led to ongoing legal action.

In a blog post, he said the turbines were a mistake.

“I and many others celebrated the erection of the turbines as a triumph of the town’s commitment to renewable energy. I did not foresee the impacts on our town – on my friends and our neighbors. Today, I and many others admit we were wrong,” he wrote in the post.

Barnstable Town Councilor John Flores, who served as Chairman of the Town Manager Screening Committee, said that the Collins Center vetted the candidates, checked out their references and everything had come back positive.

“The issue of employer-employee relationships came up but it wasn’t a decision making point that would have forced anyone out of the running,” said Flores. “The candidates themselves brought it forward too to be sure that we understood what the background issues were.”

A third finalist for the Barnstable job, Westport Town Administrator Timothy King, has been in his current position for less than two years. He was previously the assistant town manager in Wellfleet.

When he was hired for the Westport job in 2014, King told the Herald News of Fall River that he planned “to stay as Westport’s administrator for 10 to 15 years.”

When contacted by CapeCod.com Friday, King would only say that he looked forward to the upcoming interview in May.

A fourth finalist, current Barnstable Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells said he “honored” that the town council would consider him for the town manager’s job.

Ells has worked in municipal government in Barnstable for 27 years in varying capacities, most recently as assistant town manager under outgoing Town Manager Tom Lynch.

Before that, he was Barnstable’s director of public works.

“The opportunity to work in the Town of Barnstable, and the opportunity to lead the organization is one that can’t be replicated,” Ells said.

Lynch will leave at the end of June. Lynch said he had expressed interest in staying in the job last year, but the town council still went ahead with a search committee.

He later decided not to apply for the job.

By MATT PITTA, JUSTIN SAUNDERS and MATT McCARTHY, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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