Tuesday, March 11, 2014
OLD ORCHARD BEACH — A Town Council workshop scheduled Wednesday night to discuss expectations of the town manager was adjourned after several councilors and residents objected to a decision not to televise the meeting.
Councilors and residents spent nearly 90 minutes discussing why the workshop wasn’t being televised, in light of recent tension between some councilors and Town Manager Mark Pearson.
Last month, Pearson was asked by council Chairwoman Sharri MacDonald to resign, but he would not.
MacDonald said Wednesday’s workshop was intended as an informal discussion in which councilors could start putting together a list of expectations for the position – not Pearson specifically – as required under the town charter.
Town Council meetings in Old Orchard Beach are always televised locally, but workshops are aired at the discretion of the council chair, when they are deemed to be of interest to the community.
MacDonald said an upcoming council meeting will include an agenda item about whether all workshops should be televised. The workshop on expectations of the town manager will be rescheduled, but she said it is too soon to say when it would be held.
“It definitely needs to happen. The town needs the guidance,” she said, adding that she may survey residents about their expectations for a town manager.
The town has been abuzz about the apparent tension between some town councilors and Pearson since MacDonald’s resignation request came to light in early December.
MacDonald questioned whether Pearson was a “good fit” for the town and expressed concern about an allegation made against the town manager by a town employee.
She did not disclose what that allegation was, and Pearson has said he has no knowledge of the issue.
A council meeting scheduled Dec. 4 for councilors to receive legal advice about the board’s rights relating to Pearson’s contract turned into a three-hour public forum in which residents spoke largely in support of the town manager.
Even before that meeting, MacDonald had asked councilors to submit lists of expectations for the town manager.
Pearson was hired in February, before the charter took effect. He was given a job description and said he is clear about what is expected of him.
While the council agreed for the need to develop expectations for the town manager, three councilors said that discussion should be televised so it can be seen by more residents. About 35 people attended Wednesday’s meeting.
Councilor Michael Coleman called the decision not to televise the meeting an “outrage . . . a slap in the face to all the citizens in town,” he said.
Councilors Robin Dayton and Robert Quinn also said the meeting should be televised.
Councilor Dana Furtado said he was willing to have the discussion about expectations Wednesday night because it would be considered and voted on at a future council meeting.
Meting in special session before the workshop, the council approved a 12-year solid waste handling agreement with Pine Tree Waste and Casella Waste Systems Inc. Pearson said the agreement will save the town $1.5 million.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: