It appears selectmen plan to sign a “legal” acting town manager contract with Mike Milanoski in the near future, unless they shop for a different opinion and offer him a town manager’s contract in March. Town Counsel Paul DeRensis says he cannot currently step into a town manager’s contract until he is separated from the town for one year or until such time as the town manager’s act is changed to allow the same. Other unnamed counsels disagree with DeRensis, and it is thought selectmen may just say what the hell and choose a different opinion.
The illegal town manager’s contract expires in June 2013. It is thought that the Governance committee will recommend myriad of changes to the act at annual town meeting, one of which will remove all qualifications for the town manager. If passed, he or she would be able to be appointed directly from an appointed or elected town committee and selectmen would decide what qualifications were important. Only selectmen will have to be separated from the town for 15 months before they can accept a town manager appointment.
Cohasset Select Chair Paul Carlson said the dilemma the selectmen face is that with former town manager Mike Coughlin suing the town for his job, selectmen cannot realistically advertise for a new town manager because no one would apply and what kind of a messy contract would they have to write?
Vice Chair Diane Kennedy said her board has failed at controlling the narrative of the town. “This is not a Scooby Do episode,” she stated, saying the selectmen needed to stay the course, keep this raining “ ‘a-rolling for better or worse.” She promised there would eventually be a search for a town manager, but said she was not comfortable advertising for a town manager at the present time. She advocated for a 6 month contract for Milanoski beginning July 1 through Dec. 2013.
Selectman Leland Jenkins agreed with Kennedy, saying illegal town manager Mike Milanoski had brought the town into the 21st Century. “If he can stay here for 3 years, that would be a tremendous boost to the town. The problem with town managers is they get all tied up with politics. I don’t think Michael does.”
“Shame on all the constant negativity out there,” Kennedy said, adding that the board was swimming upstream and there were snipers in the bushes. We will know where we stand in May and we will look into an executive search.”
Selectman Martha Gjesteby said “The issue here is we hired someone who was never vetted. For two months I asked what his background was. I think we should advertise for a town manager. I don’t want it to go any further. I would not want to extend his contract beyond June.”
Carlson said “If we conduct a search right now, Michael couldn’t be included in the search.”
Peter Pescotore , chairman of the advisory committee, said Milanoski had a wonderful grasp of municipal law. “I’m in favor of never hiring an experienced town manager. The good guys don’t leave, they’re still in place. We have butted heads many times, but I find him ethical, intelligent, and most intelligent with regard to municipal law.”
Jack Keniley, a member of capital budget and governance and maybe something else said a search at this point with the Coughlin suit in full force, would be a disaster.
Ralph Dormitzer, governance, asked DeRensis if the Coughlin suit would stymie a town manager search, DeRensis said it would not. “Yes, you can initiate a search.”
Gjesteby and Kennedy both opined that Cohasset may not pay enough money for a good town manager. Kennedy through out a salary range of $170,000-$180,000.
Peter Brown said Milanoski was a man the town could trust. “I would trust him with my family.”
Former 3-term selectman Ronnie McMorris told the board it was important it listen to all the views in the community with regard to a contract with the town manager. “The decision was made at fall town meeting to not change the town manager’s act with regard to who can be appointed to the position. It’s not a question any longer, You already have a decision. You just don’t like it.”
Carlson disagreed with McMorris, saying the vote at the special was not as “crystal clear as you say it is.”
Former selectman Karen Quigley told selectmen “We have a town manager with a contract not written by town counsel, not signed off by town counsel. Parts of it are unenforceable. She wondered if the current contract could be made legal.
DeRensis said it was best to leave the current contract alone and to deal with a clean, new contract that would take place in July. He said all aspects of that new contract would be enforceable. “The present contract is not void, there are rights under that contract.”
Agnes McCann, library trustee, said …”Wait until spring, have some respect for governance, reserved or otherwise. “Why are you spending so much time trying to save this job for one individual…he’s one of a million people who can do this job, not one in a million. I think something’s wrong.”
Selectman Kennedy then told the meeting that the selectmen actually reached out to 6 people last spring when Coughlin was fired. “We contacted other finalists, employees in town, we ran some of the people by town counsel. (But) Mike was available. He had been coming to every meeting for months. He said ‘I’ll help you out.’ There is no master plan. Mike had worked in the City of Attleboro. This was not let’s go get our buddy and take over the town. We didn’t interview. We needed somebody to maintain the state of affairs. I’m tired of him being bullied and picked on because of a decision we made. He was available and he did a good job. ”
Carlson said he also supported the ideas of a 6 month contract in July. Jenkins then made a motion to create a new 6-month contract for Milanoski.
When Gjesteby asked if the new acting town manager contract could be extended again, DeRensis said it could be extended under the right circumstances.