After a 40-minute closed meeting Monday, town councilors announced that Brunswick Town Manager Gary Brown would resign “on or before March 31, 2014.”

Brown has served as the town’s head administrator since 2009, after being hired as assistant town manager in May 2007. Prior to his employment in Brunswick, Brown served as town manager in Topsham from October 2002 until May 2007.

Monday’s announcement came after councilors adjourned an executive session — the body’s third such private meeting since Nov. 22 — with labor litigation attorney Matthew Tarasevich, from the town’s law firm Bernstein-Shur. The meeting was called to hold “a consultation with town attorney regarding the legal rights and responsibilities of the Council per 1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)(E),” according to an agenda released Dec. 20 when the meeting was scheduled.

One previous executive session on Nov. 22 was similarly cited; a second, held Dec. 2 after the council’s regular business meeting adjourned, pertained to Brown’s performance evaluation.
Eight of the councilors were present during Monday’s meeting; however, at-large Councilor John Richardson was absent.

Councilors met at the former Hawthorne School because of ongoing renovation to the town’s soon-to-be municipal offices at 85 Union St., formerly Bowdoin College’s McLellan Building. That project has been the subject of widespread criticism, specifically pertaining to Brown’s advocacy of the renovations, the town’s fiscal behavior and how the project will affect the town’s financial health when municipal budget season begins in two months.

Neither councilors nor Brown would answer questions regarding the resignation, whether it was voluntary or if Brown was forced out because of a loss of the council’s confidence.

While the council sat in executive session, Brown sat in a break room at the Hawthorne School and talked about the pros and cons of international travel with council Chairwoman Suzan Wilson’s husband, Dan McLaughlin, a commercial airline pilot.

After the council re-entered public session to announce the resignation, however, Brown offered no spoken comment, not even a confirmation of his age. Instead, he referred queries from several reporters to a written news release that he distributed immediately after the meeting adjourned.

Neither would councilors comment on Brown’s impending departure, saying instead that they had been instructed to refer all questions to Wilson.

After gaveling the meeting to conclusion, Wilson also refused to comment beyond what was included in the written release.

“The statement says it all,” Wilson said — a statement echoed verbatim minutes later by Brown, when asked by reporters for more information.

The release contains a brief statement by Brown, as well as a laudatory passage by Wilson. It also lists Brown’s accomplishments since being promoted to town manager in 2009, including completion of the long-sought replacement police station at Pleasant and Stanwood streets “on time and under budget,” construction of retail shops, restaurants and the Amtrak Downeaster platform at Brunswick Station; and the acquisition and current renovation of the former Bowdoin College McLellan Building into what eventually will be Brunswick’s municipal offices and public meeting space.

However, it is the McLellan Building project that most recently has drawn widespread criticism from town residents regarding Brown’s performance and transparency of the municipal government’s actions.

Many — including several town councilors — have voiced objection to the project and its escalating  price tag, which most recently included reconstruction costs of almost $1 million and annual operational costs estimated at $200,000.

Since Brown was hired as manager, “Brunswick experienced unprecedented changes, including the closing of (U.S. Naval Air Station, Brunswick),” Wilson’s portion of the statement reads.

“Change also results in new direction for the council, and both the council and Gary recognize this,” Wilson’s statement said. “As a result, we … have arrived at an agreement that works for both the town and Gary.”

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