WVN #517: Town administrator fired without cause
TOWN ADMINISTRATOR FIRED WITHOUT CAUSE
After heated discussion, the Wayland Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 on Aug. 26 to terminate immediately without cause the employment contract of Town Administrator Fred Turkington and to ask the assistant town administrator to serve in the interim.
Turklngton’s eight years in Wayland were marked by ambitious projects and sometimes controversy and confrontation.
Tony Boschetto, who made the motion, explained that the contract allowed termination without cause and that this was in the best interest of the citizens and of Turkington. The town needs new leadership, he added.
Boschetto said the motion gives Turkington an opportunity to find new employment and is the most fair to all.
All five selectmen were present at the beginning of the meeting, when Steve Correia said heatedly he had asked three times what was meant by item 4 on the agenda: “Review Town Administrator Employment Agreement and Job Description.” Turkington’s contract was not up for renewal.
After the motion was made, Correia became agitated. He left the room after declaring that the selectmen weren’t informed and the matter should be discussed with Turkington. “I’m shocked; this is not transparent… it’s an ambush,” he said. Correia cited the eight years of largely stellar performance reviews of the administrator and said the board owed it to the employee to discuss the matter. “You campaigned on transparency,” he told Boschetto. “I’m not sure I want to be on a board that does this.”
Boschetto again explained that a termination without cause was in Turkington’s best interest.
Joe Nolan also said he was shocked and decried the lack of transparency. He cited the additional cost to the town of severance pay (a year’s salary) as a “waste of town money.” Boschetto said the additional costs wouldn’t be incurred until the town hires a replacement. This is “maximum exposure to the town and minimum of decency and courtesy,” Nolan continued. “You guys have the votes.”
The three yes votes came from Boschetto, Ed Collins and Chairman Doug Leard. All were elected to the Board recently. Nolan’s tenure extends back to 2005 when the Board hired Turkington. Leard served previously.
After the vote, Leard said he was on the board that hired Turkington and that “this was the most difficult thing I’ve done.” He offered to write letters of recommendation.
Boschetto said he had complete confidence in the assistant town administrator, John Senchyshyn, who filled in for the finance director, and the town’s department managers.
Turkington left the meeting after the Board considered a few other items.
There was no immediate comment from the selectmen, Turkington or others after the Board of Selectmen meeting ended.
After Turkington was hired from a similar position in Connecticut, he was given more authority than his Wayland predecessors. The consolidation of several town departments into a Department of Public Works in 2009 expanded his scope. The selectmen often delegated to him tasks that the Board had historically performed.
Members of several other boards with oversight over specific departments complained that they were unclear about their own authority in light of Turkington’s interpretation of his power. Voters, and sometimes elected officials, were occasionally surprised by actions taken without the time-honored procedures of public meetings.
The last crucial event in Turkington’s tenure came when Wayland was sued by the developer of the Town Center project on Route 20. The town lost and now faces a $1.2 million judgement.
In a deposition in that action, Turkington testified that a 1999 agreement on wastewater capacity remained in force. This turned out to be a questionable assumption, and some residents asserted that the town’s defense was botched.
-- WVN Staff
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor