WVN #457: Board ignored, blindsided
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Once again the Board of Public Works has found itself left in the dark about important decisions it was supposed to take part in.
At their June 19 meeting with public works Director Don Ouellette, Board members mentioned his performance evaluation because the director's three-year contract was up for renewal. They were stunned when Ouellette said he already had a new three-year deal he had negotiated with Town Administrator Fred Turkington. He gave the Board no details.
Fifteen days earlier, Board members had told Turkington that they wanted to offer their comments on the director, and Turkington said he'd welcome them. But a source with knowledge of the contract, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the contract was signed well before that meeting.
This was by no means the first time that the Board, which oversees several departments combined in 2009, has been blindsided.
The latest incident tends to support the skepticism of some Town Meeting voters who warned that adopting a Department of Public Works would be a power grab that would deprive the town of valuable volunteer expertise and attention. Under the new system the town administrator would take on more powers of a town manager, they asserted.
At least one other elected board has been left in the dark about important matters.
Also in this newsletter: Openings for finance, other committees.
When the April 2008 Town Meeting approved establishing the DPW, the statutory language included this: "The Town Administrator, in consultation with the board, shall appoint, fix the tenure, compensation and fringe benefits of, and may enter into an employment agreement with a Director of Public Works, subject to appropriation and the provisions of the town's by-laws and personnel by-laws and wage and salary classification plan."
Though Ouellette became DPW director on July 1, 2009, Board members said on June 4 that they had never been consulted on his performance.
When the Board asked on June 4 to weigh in on Ouellette's performance evaluation, Turkington replied that a review was "ongoing" and he would need to check the date on the contract.
At the June 19 meeting, which was preceded by emailed guidance from Turkington, it became clear that there was a continuing disagreement with the town administrator over roles and responsibilities.
The DPW was set up so that the DPW director reports to the town administrator. But oversight powers from the dissolved elected boards (road and water commissions, for example) were transferred to the new BoPW. A multi-page handout at the 2008 town meeting prepared by town counsel enumerated those powers. Town Meeting's vote to create the DPW was based on that understanding.
After Ouellette's disclosure about his new contract, Board members expressed shock and frustration at one more end run around them. This was yet another example of others making decisions for them, they said, this has been going on for years, their authority again has been taken away, and there is a concerted strategic pattern to ignore them, which is very discouraging for volunteers in town government.
Board Chairman Mike Lowery told his colleagues after the Ouellette revelation that the Board has the right to evaluate the director's performance, and there has to be a legal mechanism for doing so. Mike Wegerbauer, the only remaining original BoPW commissioner when the DPW began three years ago, said that he had participated in the original employment interview.
Board members may not be aware that when the selectmen negotiated a new three-year contract with Turkington in May 2011, in addition to pay increases, he received a new executive compensation package with benefits that could be offered to other senior staff.
http://www.wayland.ma.us/pages/WaylandMA_SelectmenMin/Board%20of%20Selectmen%20Minutes%202011/BOSMinutes05162011.pdf Scroll down to item A10 Executive Session to see the details.
There was a majority Board consensus that the Ouellette deal was cause for seeking independent legal advice. Chairman Lowery planned to meet with Turkington and town counsel Mark Lanza. The Board authorized Lowery to discuss these matters on their behalf at that meeting.
Ignored Time and Again
The BoPW being the last to know something important within its purview is nothing new. In late 2010 senior staff decided to try to consolidate the Sudbury and Wayland transfer stations. The BoPW was last to know, but that experiment failed. More recently, the BoPW was last to know that the transfer station was changing to single-stream recycling with a new vendor, apparently without following a public bidding process.
It is also reminiscent of the stunned reaction of another independently elected board, the Recreation Commission, when it learned after the fact that, without its knowledge or participation, a new Intermunicipal Agreement had been negotiated by the town administrator with Sudbury expanding the sharing of staff of Wayland's Recreation Department for the next 25 years.
The new agreement was approved by the selectmen and signed by Turkington last November, before the Commission knew anything about it. The Recreation Commission is not a board under the selectmen's jurisdiction, and neither the Commission nor Town Meeting authorized entering into such an agreement with another town.
Section 8 of the 2008 applicable Special Act conveyed clear powers: "...the Recreation Commission shall be responsible for the custody, management, control and operation of all accounts, budgetary funds, other funds and staff formerly under the jurisdiction of the Park and Recreation Commission and held or employed for playground or recreation purposes."
Nevertheless, since the town administrator signed the Intermunicipal Agreement, whose validity is still questioned by some town officials, the Recreation Department office has been hurt by staff reduction as decisions were made by senior staff, not the Commission; the changes were explained as stemming from new sharing provisions with Sudbury.
At the April 10, 2008 Town Meeting, when voters approved forming a DPW under Article 5, the debate included how cost savings would be achieved. Proponent Bob Lentz, who served on the DPW Assessment Committee, denied that Article 5 was a power grab. Regarding financial incentives, he stated the new director's salary would come from the then-unfilled water superintendent position. He reported that no personnel would lose their jobs, but rather savings would be achieved by attrition. Lentz told voters the cost-saving projections were based on having three fewer employees, without any cuts to services.
Speaking in opposition, Recreation Commissioner Brud Wright (recently re-elected in April's contested race) argued there was no need to turn Wayland's government upside down by the proposed DPW reorganization. The same cost savings from attrition could be obtained without a DPW. Fellow commissioner Stas Gayshan, also recently re-elected in a contested race, reported to the 2008 Town Meeting that there were no employees in the then-Parks and Recreation Department contemplating retiring in the near future.
How much money the town has saved in the last three years with the DPW is often asked at the same time as complaints are voiced about projects not being finished on time (beach house), not authorized (horse paddock) or over budget (Hannah Williams park). Voters have channeled their frustration by demanding restitution for being overcharged for their drinking water, something the BoPW has committed to addressing.
At the June 19 BoPW meeting, DPW Director Ouellette reported that he had to order work to stop on the Pemberton Road water main replacement project because he does not have enough employees to cover the various projects now under way. Instead he will have to contract the rest of the work out, which will cost more.
Sources of ongoing frustration were discussed at the Jan. 3 joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Recreation Commission, Board of Public Works, their department heads, and town counsel.
Recreation Commissioner Gayshan, an attorney, sparred with town counsel when the latter suggested a different interpretation of the special act language regarding the authority of the Commission. Gayshan contended that the language clearly states that the Commission is responsible for its staff.
One recurring theme is dysfunction caused by a chronic lack of communication. Various members of the BoPW and Recreation Commission find themselves surprised by what they view as senior staff exceeding their authority and acting without the knowledge or consent of the elected board members. Disagreements over the 2008 DPW legislation remain unresolved as town officials disagree with town counsel's interpretations over who has what authority. Town counsel's work is overseen by Fred Turkington.
For more information about Turkington, Ouellette, and the Board of Public Works, see the following:
From WayCAM's recording of the live June 4 telecast, fast forward to elapsed time 02:10:25:
Later in that meeting, the board resumed discussing the process for providing input on the Director's review to the Town Administrator. When they mentioned they would conduct that review in open session, that prompted Don Ouellette to firmly state that the board would be required to do so in executive session. Board members disagreed with Ouellette.
The board deferred trying to resolve that difference of opinion pending a check with the Personnel Department. Presumably they would be reminded that Wayland lost a landmark Open Meeting Law case in the state's highest court regarding the School Committee's evaluation of former school superintendent Gary Burton. The court ruled that public officials are required to conduct job performance evaluations and deliberate publicly, while the resulting document is privileged and ends up in the employee's personnel file.
At no time at the June 4 meeting did Ouellette indicate that his review and new contract already had been completed. Yet, two weeks later he disclosed he had a new three-year contract.
In management theory, the structure set up in 2008 is known as Matrix Management. About.com defines it:
"Definition: A style of management where an individual has two reporting superiors (bosses) - one functional and one operational.
"This is commonly seen in project management where an engineer, for example, reports to the chief engineer functionally, but reports to the project manager on operational project issues......
"For a matrix management style of organization to be effective, the functional and operational managers must have equal weight in controlling the individuals in their matrix."
--- Linda Segal
The following town government vacancies have been posted on the town website:
Finance Committee - One Vacancy
Wastewater Management District Commission - One Vacancy
Advanced Life Support Committee - One Vacancy
Economic Development Committee - One Vacancy
Cable Television Advisory Committee - Two Vacancies
Housing Partnership - One Vacancy
Wellhead Protection Advisory Committee - Two Vacancies
Letters of interest and background information should be submitted before July 3 to selectmen@... or Board of Selectmen, Town of Wayland, 41 Cochituate Road, Wayland, MA 01778. Applicants should include a statement of interest and resume with education and experience (professional or volunteer) relevant to the open position.
Applicants must be registered to vote in Wayland. The Board of Selectmen is expected to interview and consider appointments on Monday, July 9, Wednesday, July 18, and Wednesday, August 1.
CAMERA VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
WayCAM, the town's public access cable channel, broadcasts many events and public meetings and wants to broadcast even more. More volunteers are needed to meet the many requests for the station's services..
If you're interested in TV technology or informing the public about important issues and if you can spare two to four hours per assignment, contact Jim Mullane: jim@...; 508-358-5006.
WAYCAM PRESENTS SCHOLARSHIPS
WayCAM recently awarded its annual scholarships to Wayland High School seniors Evan Barber and Riley Starr, who were cited for outstanding service in TV production. Barber will attend Auburn University in the fall and Starr will attend Quinnipiac University.
In addition to broadcasting Wayland meetings and other events, WayCAM trains high school students. Over the years WayCAM has awarded nine college scholarships, partly funded by dues of WayCAM members and contributions from local businesses.
UPCOMING MEETINGS in Town Hall
Monday, June 25:
No selectmen's meeting
Operational Review Committee, 6:45 p.m.
Finance Committee, 7 p.m., discussion with Assessors, year-end reserves, givebacks, etc. The FinCom must decide whether to increase contributions to a fund for post-retirement employee benefits (OPEB) or let givebacks fall to free cash. Free cash has been used in recent years to reduce the tax rate. At the 2012 annual Town Meeting, the voters declined to increase the 2013 scheduled contribution to OPEB.
Board of Assessors, 7:30 p.m.
School Committee, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, June 26:
Board of Public Works, 7 p.m., Roles & Responsibilities & relationship with Town Administrator
Planning Board, 7:35 p.m. continued public hearing, town center Stop & Shop wind vanes
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor