Thursday, April 24, 2014
By Gillian Graham email@example.com
An Old Orchard Beach Town Council session to discuss embattled Town Manager Mark Pearson may be another attempt to terminate his contract or force him to resign, according to town councilors who support Pearson.
The agenda for Tuesday's meeting includes an executive session discussion of "personnel matters related to the town manager," with possible action to follow. In December, Pearson was asked by the Town Council chairwoman to resign, touching off heated debates and revealing the tension between the town's top administrator and a deeply divided Town Council.
The executive session comes two weeks after a split council voted to override Pearson's decision to terminate the contract of Public Works director Bill Robertson, a move that Pearson's attorney said the council did not have the authority to make.
Two councilors who support Pearson -- Michael Coleman and Bob Quinn -- said Friday they were surprised to see the executive session on the agenda.
"It probably is an attempt to ditch the town manager," Quinn said. "I thought it was inappropriate the first time, and I think it's inappropriate now. It's a vendetta being pursued by the chairwoman and three councilors."
Chairwoman Sharri MacDonald, who asked Pearson to resign in December, did not return calls seeking comment.
Councilor Dana Furtado, reached by phone Friday, said he had not seen the agenda, so could not comment.
Councilors Linda Mailhot and Robin Dayton and Vice Chairwoman Laura Bolduc did not return phone calls.
Dayton has said she supports Pearson, while Furtado, Mailhot and Bolduc have indicated they do not.
Coleman said he will continue to support the town manager's request that his job performance be discussed publicly and questioned MacDonald's motivation in putting the executive session on the agenda. He said four councilors are "dead set on getting rid of the town manager."
"I think they're trying to micromanage this manager. They're trying to run him out of town. Quite frankly, I think it's because he's trying to run the town responsibly with the taxpayers at heart," he said. "I'm seeing a concerted effort to undermine his authority to do the job we hired him to do."
Pearson, who started his job in February 2012, is the town's fourth manager since 2003.
On Dec. 7, MacDonald asked Pearson to resign, citing concerns from multiple councilors and her feeling that the town manager is not a "good fit" for Old Orchard Beach. Pearson refused to step down and requested that any discussion about his job performance be held in public.
The agenda for the Dec. 12 council meeting included an executive session to allow the council to discuss with the town attorney the rights of the Town Council in regard to Pearson's contract. The council didn't have enough votes to move into an executive session, but the meeting continued for another 2½ hours with comments from residents and town employees. Tempers flared as community members demanded to know why MacDonald wanted to oust Pearson.
A month later, a Town Council workshop on expectations for the town manager was derailed when several councilors and residents objected to a decision not to televise the meeting.
Pearson's attorney, John Richardson, said the town manager will continue to request any discussion of his job to be held in public.
Richardson said he was surprised to see another agenda item for an executive session about the town manager because "I thought we've done this once already."
"This town manager has the overwhelming support of the community. That was demonstrated at the last meeting. There was a very strong public reaction against the chair for even attempting to suggest he resign," Richardson said.
"I think it's unfortunate this matter keeps coming up on the council agenda. I thought there was a loud, clear message from the public about what they wanted to happen. They wanted the town manager to continue what he's doing to improve the town. Apparently that's not happening."
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: