Kennebunk Town Manager Michael Pardue has announced he will seek the Republican nod for Maine Senate District 34 in the June primary. A local man has started a petition asking Pardue to resign if he is elected. Courtesy Photo

KENNEBUNK — A local resident wants Kennebunk Town Manager Michael Pardue and the Select Board to re-write the terms of Pardue’s contract that would see the manager resign if he is elected to the Maine Senate in November.

The contract was signed by the Select Board Jan. 7. It extends Pardue’s contract, which was due to expire June 30, by three years.

John Costin, who frequently speaks at Select Board meetings, claims Pardue, if elected, will have a “no show” job, and that the contract gives him full compensation. But the contract also makes provision for when he is away and contains language that sees the town manager cede his Legislative salary, which amounts to about $14,000 in the first session and $10,000 in the second, to the town.

Costin, however, believes Pardue needs to resign if he is elected, and has started an online petition. As of Monday, Feb. 17, the petition had been up seven days and had 59 signatures. Costin said he plans a paper petition as well as the online version.

“There are a lot of residents that are very unhappy with this deal, but it appears as if some members of the Select Board think I am the only one,” Costin, in an email, said of Pardue’s contract. “A petition is a good way to show decision-makers that there is a lot of support for changing the contract, and also to make sure that word gets out about it.”

Pardue, who has previously served as a police chief, fire chief, public safety director, public services manager and a human resources director in various communities, said he will live up to his commitments.

“For anyone to suggest that I will not meet the requirements of my contractual commitments to the town of Kennebunk is without merit,” said Pardue in a written statement to the Kennebunk Post Sunday night. “My unwavering work ethic and demonstrated ability over numerous years to successfully serve multiple entities simultaneously, provides evidence of my ability to do so.”

A town manager serving simultaneously in the Legislature is not without precedent, according to Maine Municipal Association Communications Director Eric Conrad.

“It is unusual but not unprecedented. From time to time, we see one or two,” Conrad said by phone on Thursday. “It’s up for every community to decide.”

Republican James Gillway served eight years in the Maine House and is marking his 15th year as Searsport town manager.

“I found a way to juggle it,” said Gillway on Thursday. “And I served four full terms (in the House). One of the naysayers was a Select Board member who left the board, and he congratulated me on the good work I did.”

Gillway said he went into work for the town of Searsport early and returned to the town office after his legislative work was complete in order to fulfill his commitment to Searsport. And, he said, there were times when he was in Augusta he did work associated with the town. He said there were a lot of phone calls and a lot of emails.

He said he took a cut in his town manager pay, but kept his Legislative salary.

The former town manager of Belgrade, Dennis Keschel, who resigned in June 2019 for personal reasons, served as town manager and in the Legislature at the same time, Conrad said. Keschel remains a state legislator.

In Corinth, Donald Strout, who died in 2015, served in the Maine Legislature from 1973 to 1996. He was hired as Corinth town manager in 1973, when already serving as a Republican legislator, and served in that role until 2010.

Pardue, a Republican, announced his run for the open seat in Senate District 34 in January, after the incumbent, Robert Foley, said he wouldn’t seek another term. Joining the race two weeks ago was Democrat and longtime Kennebunk High School teacher and football coach Joe Rafferty.

Costin brought up the contract at the Feb. 11 Select Board meeting. At the meeting he said Select Board member Ed Karytko, the chair of the Kennebunk Republican Town Committee, had what he called “special interest,” in the matter and asked if Karytko had declared his GOP committee affiliation.

“This was a month and a half ago I can’t remember, you’re surprising me,” said Karytko.

“Does each member of the committee have a special interest in Mr. Pardue’s candidacy,” asked Costin. He said Karytko had a conflict of interest, and that he would like to know if any board members had active or leadership roles in the Republican party, or had or planned to make cash or in-kind donations or planned to take part in Pardue’s campaign.

“We’re not going to answer any of those questions, John, because you’re out of order,” said Chair Blake Baldwin, who went on to explain that Maine conflict of interest statutes refer to a personal benefit. He said there is no conflict of interest, and that the board had consulted the town attorney.

Baldwin said board members have “a right to have a life” outside their Select Board membership.

“This is not a partisan group and we try to keep it that way,” said Baldwin. He said the Select Board went into the matter knowing there would be people who would object.

“We thought on balance we were better off with Mike in office than if we had not reappointed him,” said Baldwin.

Select Board member Shiloh Schulte said he had initial concerns, but no longer does.

“What moved me … is that the Maine Senate is effectively a volunteer position because the compensation is so minimal and if employers didn’t support people running for the Senate, we would have retirees and (those who are) independently wealthy as senators,” said Schulte. “That’s not the profile I’d like to see in our Senate.”

A number of school teachers have served in the Legislature and others who work in public service — including a Kennebunk Police officer who served as a member of the Maine House in Sanford, where he lives.

“A lot of people have to work it out with their employer,” said Conrad, of MMA, on Thursday.

Pardue’s $130,680 salary won’t change until July 1, 2021, when he will receive a cost-of-living adjustment equal to that of other non-union employees, plus an additional amount, if any, as the Select Board deems appropriate based on periodic performance reviews, and again beginning July 1, 2022.

The contract spells out that the town will contribute $26,000 annually to Pardue’s retirement account at the beginning of each contract year.

His employment agreement acknowledges Pardue is a candidate for the Maine Senate and is “encouraged and authorized to run.” The contract goes on to say that if elected, “it is understood between the parties that such service will impact the town manager’s hours at town hall and possibly also his attendance at meetings of the Select Board.”

The contract notes that if elected, Pardue will work with the chair of the Select Board to develop an operational plan for when he is unavailable, due to legislative service.

It spells out that his election would not affect other terms of the agreement except that his legislative salary would constitute an offset against his town of Kennebunk salary.

There is no method spelled out in Kennebunk’s charter for overturning an action of the Select Board.

Costin said any contract can be revised or terminated if both parties agree to do so.

“We hope that when the town manager and Select Board see the opposition to this deal they will choose to revise or rewrite the contract,” said Costin. He said he is looking for Pardue, if elected, to resign as town manager at the beginning of the 2021 Legislative term; that he return a pro-rated share of his $26,000 retirement contribution, and that he not let his Senate campaign activities interfere with his responsibilities as town manager or with decisions he makes in that capacity.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: