WINDHAM — Longtime Windham town manager Tony Plante has resigned and will receive a severance package worth $175,000 following a dispute over his job performance that has divided the town council for weeks.

The council voted 5-2 last week to approve the severance agreement, which was worked out by Town Attorney Stephen Langsdorf and an attorney for Plante. Councilors Timothy Nangle and Jarrod Maxfield voted against it.

The $175,000 is equal to one year’s salary and half payment for Plante’s accrued sick time and vacation time, as per town policy, Langsdorf said. It also prohibits Plante from taking legal action against the town, he said.

Donald Gerrish, an experienced town manager, has been appointed to the post while the town searches for Plante’s replacement.

Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman has criticized the way the town has been managed under Plante, specifically mentioning the town’s dispute with the union representing Public Works Department employees. Plante’s employment came into question last month after Chapman told the Lakes Region Weekly that Plante should either retire or face a possible firing. Her comments followed two outside reports that cited a need to improve communication, trust and accountability throughout town departments, among other findings.

Nangle and Maxfield have said Chapman had a “vindictive vendetta” against Plante. Plante has not commented on Chapman’s remarks and could not be reached.

Chapman said Plante took her statement to mean that there were no other options for him than to retire or be fired. “At that point, nothing was off the table. I didn’t mean he should be terminated. I really wanted to see this mutual agreement happen,” she said.

Councilor Dennis Welch said Plante no longer wanted to remain employed.

“The big question is, why does he want to leave,” Nangle asked. “He told me that he doesn’t want to leave, but his hand was forced.”

“Paying a large severance package is not what’s normally done when a person is fired or let go for a legitimate cause,” Maxfield said. “If somebody actually did something worth losing their job, they don’t walk out the door with $175,000.”

The council didn’t have just cause or the five votes it would have needed to fire Plante, Welch said.

Gerrish, a municipal consultant at Eaton Peabody, will help lead the search for Plante’s replacement. Gerrish served as town manager in Brunswick for nearly 20 years and was manager of Gorham for 10.

Plante had been town manager since 1996 and was named Manager of the Year in 2016 by the Maine Town, City and County Management Association. His last day was Oct. 10

After Chapman’s comments about Plante’s employment last month, town staff members and residents turned out at a Sept. 28 council meeting to show their support of Plante and their displeasure with Chapman.

In an interview after the Oct. 9 meeting, Chapman said, “It’s difficult to sit here and take accusations after accusations week after week after week. It’s just constant attack, and it’s truly not healthy for the community, it’s not healthy for the council, and I’m quite fed up.”

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or at:

[email protected]

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