Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Betty Adams email@example.com
LITCHFIELD — Michael Byron is no longer town manager.
Byron was fired Tuesday night after five-plus years in the post, when the board of selectmen voted 2-1 to terminate his contract before its Dec. 31 expiration date.
Rayna Leibowitz, chairman of the board, said Wednesday that a search committee will be formed to fill the vacancy.
Byron, who is also a city councilor in Augusta, was hired as town manager in Litchfield in January 2008, taking over for Steve Musica, who retired. Byron was in the second year of a two-year contract, earning $58,500 annually for a minimum of 32 hours a week.
In his first year in Litchfield, he was paid $40,000 a year for 34 hours a week.
Leibowitz and Selectman Mark Russell voted to terminate Byron’s contract. Selectman George Thomson voted against it.
“It appeared to two of us that it was in the best interest of the town to terminate the contract at this time,” Leibowitz said Wednesday from the Town Office. She said she was there “to see if there’s anything I can do that would be of assistance.”
While she did not specify any reasons for the termination, Leibowitz said, “There have been some citizens who expressed displeasure with him. I can’t tell you if it was style or decisions that he made or failed to make.”
Thomson did not immediately respond to two phone messages left at his home Wednesday.
Byron, 76, said Wednesday from his Augusta home that a provision in his contract allowed for termination at any time in the second year.
“I’ll miss the people; they’re great, the staff, fire and rescue, public works,” he said.
The move to oust him came at the end of the regular agenda for Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting.
Russell, who made the motion to terminate Byron, and had been a selectman previously, won a three-year term on the board last year.
Bryon said selectmen told him they were dissatisfied with some things.
“In my judgment, these were very minor things,” Byron said. “They said I haven’t gotten a space designer to reconfigure the office more efficiently. I haven’t gotten (the Town Office and the Townhouse Museum) roofs repaired even though the approval for the appropriation came at the Town Meeting June 15. I hadn’t finished redrafting the personnel policy. I hadn’t evaluated the front office staff.”
He said he told them those things would be taken care of according to priority. His most recent tasks, he said, had been preparing the budget, the warrant for the Town Meeting, and other things.
Byron said in his time in Litchfield he focused on “taking care of the needs of the 3,700 people I work for, the citizens of Litchfield and making sure we are very efficient with the use of tax dollars. The most important metric in any municipal balance sheet is the unassigned fund balance, more commonly known as the rainy day fund. Over the past five years, through prudent fiscal management, I’ve been able to raise that fund to $1.2 million as of June 30, 2012, which in turn has allowed selectmen to moderate the tax increases.”
Byron is in his eighth year on Augusta City Council, representing Ward 1. He worked in commercial lending and as a consultant and was a selectman for 16 years in Manchester prior to moving to Augusta.
On Wednesday afternoon, selectmen held an emergency meeting and appointed Trudy Lamoreau tax collector. She had been a deputy tax collector.
Betty Adams — 621-5631