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‘Winds of Change’ — Barnstable Looks For New Town Manager

Laura M. Reckford
Written by Laura M. Reckford



BARNSTABLE – This winter, Barnstable, the largest town on Cape Cod, will embark on a search for a new town manager.

But how the 13 Barnstable town councilors dismissed the current town manager, Thomas Lynch, is still an unanswered question for some, including Lynch.

“I’ve been given no rationale for why they are making this change,” Lynch said back on September 16, 2015, when he sent a letter to the town council stating that he would be stepping aside when his contract ends on June 30, 2016.

This article, looking to find the answer to that question and how it will affect the town moving forward, is based on 12 interviews and attendance at 17 meetings held over the past seven months.

“I’ve been given no rationale for why they are making this change.”

Barnstable Town Manager Thomas Lynch

The town has allocated funds to hire a professional firm to conduct the search for a new town manager and that process will begin this month.

But the controversial issue remained a heated topic at town council meetings last fall and has pitted councilors against each other. It has also set one councilor on a new mission to change the town charter to ensure that unseating a town manager cannot take place without a two-thirds vote of the council and public input.

** This story originally ran January 5, 2016. UPDATE: Applications for the position of town manager were due on February 27. The Town Manager Screening Committee met on March 10, 2016 to begin to review the applications in executive session. Barnstable Town Councilor John Flores, who chairs the committee, said, “20 plus” applications were received by the deadline.

That town councilor, Paul Hebert of Centerville, even resorted to using the controversial parliamentary move, a charter objection, to delay the vote to allocate money to pay for the search firm.

Barnstable Town Manager Tom Lynch addresses the Barnstable Town Council. Town Council Administrator Cynthia Lovell sits in the background.

Barnstable Town Manager Tom Lynch addresses the Barnstable Town Council. Town Council Administrator Cynthia Lovell sits in the background.

Four town councilors—Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti of Cotuit, and town councilors James H. Crocker Jr. of Osterville, Fred Chirigotis of Centerville and Jennifer L. Cullum of Hyannis—offer differing accounts of how and why the town manager’s dismissal happened.

But several councilors have agreed with Councilor John T. Norman of Marstons Mills who, at a recent meeting, said the “winds of change” are behind the ouster and town managers are “well versed in politics” and should not be surprised that such a thing can happen.

The town manager position, Norman said at the town council meeting on December 3, 2015, should not be considered “a lifetime appointment.” He and others in favor of the ouster pointed to the fact that the town of Barnstable has not had an outside search for the top executive position for at least 17 years and it is high time to do so.

When asked to weigh in on the issue, three of Cape Cod’s longest serving town administrators, Charles Sumner of Brewster, who recently retired; Robert C. Lawton Jr. of Yarmouth, who is also retired; and George “Bud” Dunham of Sandwich, all acknowledged that the role of top town official can be fraught with political conflicts with the appointing board, be it the board of selectmen, as in their towns, or town councilors, as in Barnstable.

 

WaveThe Timeline

The town manager issue has played out over the past year. On February 26, 2015, Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum, who chaired a town manager evaluation subcommittee, presented a report to the Barnstable Town Council that the review showed Lynch “exceeds expectations,” the highest mark possible in his review.

That same night, Rapp-Grassetti announced that she was forming the Committee to Analyze Management Practices and Polices (CAMPP), which held its first meeting on April 1, 2015. Rapp-Grassetti charged the committee with reviewing the job description of the town manager. Citing the expiration date of the town manager’s contract on June 30, 2016, Rapp-Grassetti also asked the committee to recommend whether to hire an outside search firm to assist in the search of a town manager. The committee aligned the job description with the town charter and voted to recommend an outside firm. On July 7, 2015, Town Manager Lynch called Rapp-Grassetti to tell her he was interested in discussing a contract extension.

But Rapp-Grassetti had already planned to form the Town Manager Search Committee. It held its first meeting on August 13, 2015. At its August 20 meeting, the committee voted to send a letter to Lynch and Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells inviting them to apply for the town manager job. On September 3, 2015, the committee recommended to the town council that an outside search firm be hired to conduct a search for a town manager, and the council voted 8 to 5 in favor. On September 16, Lynch sent a letter to the town council saying that he would not be seeking to renew his contract. On December 3, the council voted 8 to 5 to appropriate $34,999 for the search.

 

WavePaul Hebert Has A Mission

Town Councilor Paul Hebert, the founder of CHAMP Homes, a nonprofit that offers transitional housing for formerly homeless people, is one of the newer town councilors, having been elected in 2013.

Town Councilor Paul Hebert wants to change the charter so town managers cannot be dismissed so easily.

Town Councilor Paul Hebert wants to change the charter so town managers cannot be dismissed so easily.

He has received high praise from other councilors for his gentlemanly manners and is always quick with a supportive word or an effusive compliment.

But his stance on the town manager ouster has shown Hebert as a strong advocate for what he believes, and also as someone who will not put up with disrespect. At no time was that more clear than at the November 17, 2015 meeting of the Barnstable Town Council when Hebert surprised the councilors by blocking a vote with the parliamentary procedure known as the charter objection.

“They were not prepared to see the other side of Hebert. I knew they were not happy with me,” Hebert said after the meeting.

Hebert has been outspokenly upset about the process of replacing the town manager. He did not agree that discussion of a search to replace Town Manager Tom Lynch should begin without first asking Lynch whether he wanted to continue in the position and without a reason being given for the ouster.

As one of the five town councilors on the town manager search committee, Hebert expressed deep reservations about the mission of the committee and the way the process for a new town manager was proceeding out of the public eye.

The meetings were open to the public but not televised.

“People are not being heard and not being represented,” he said. “The process is flawed.”

He also served on the charter review committee, a town council subcommittee that held meetings over the past year reviewing some aspects of the town charter. It was at one of those meetings this past fall that the issue of the parliamentary procedure known as the charter objection was brought up. Saying “charter objection” just before a vote, effectively blocks the vote from taking place at that meeting.

During that meeting, Hebert wanted clarification on what the purpose of the charter objection was.

Another member of the committee, Councilor Fred Chirigotis, explained the charter objection had been misused in the past for one councilor to block efforts that the rest of the council were making, which can be particularly damaging when a matter in time sensitive, such as a real estate transaction.

With the discussion of the pros and cons of charter objections still lingering, it came as a surprise at the town council meeting on November 19 when Hebert used the maneuver to block the vote on appropriating $34,999 for the purpose of hiring an outside consultant to conduct a town manager search.

Hebert said he made use of the charter objection, having newly learned about it, because the Town Council President Rapp-Grassetti did not give Hebert the opportunity to clarify a point that had been made about him. Instead of calling on Hebert, who had his hand raised, she proceeded to a vote on the issue.

Hebert said he had an important point to make and Rapp-Grassetti had cut off the discussion prematurely.

During the discussion about the appropriation, Councilor James Crocker referenced Hebert, saying “You got what you wanted,” with regard to which search firm was chosen.

“I wanted the opportunity for a rebuttal,” Hebert said. He wanted to clarify that his issue was with the process of replacing the town manager, not with the search firm.

“I felt disrespected. I didn’t have the opportunity to respond,” he said.

He said he felt justified using the charter objection in that situation, “and I hope I don’t have to use it again.”

Hebert said he will use his next two years in office to work to get the town charter changed so that a simple majority of the council cannot oust a town manager. “It should be a two-thirds majority” and he wants more public input, he said.

When asked what he thought of Hebert’s idea for change, Lynch said that while it would have worked in his favor, he doesn’t necessarily agree with giving a minority of the council such sway to stop a vote.

 

WaveTown Councilors Take Sides on Town Manager Issue

Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti says the town manager did not put his intensions in writing in a timely fashion.

Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti says the town manager did not put his intensions in writing in a timely fashion.

When asked recently to clarify the reason for a search for a new town manager in Barnstable, Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti did not mince words. “Because Tom has decided not to seek a new contract. It’s as simple as that.” She said she did not want to get into a ‘he said, she said,’ over the issue.

“When he told me he was interested, I told him to put it in writing and that never happened. We’re proceeding because of that. I would think that, if someone was very serious about negotiating a two to three year contract they would be professional and put it in writing, rather than playing the press against the council,” she said.

“I told him to put it in writing and that never happened. We’re proceeding because of that.”

Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti

Rapp-Grassetti said it was not her place to ask Lynch if he wanted to extend his contract. “It’s water under the bridge at this point,” she said.

She said she intends to form both a search committee made up of town councilors and a contract committee once the search firm has begun its process.

When asked whether personalities played a role in Lynch’s lack of an extension, Rapp-Grassetti said, “It was non-professional behavior that played a role.”

Rapp-Grassetti said she did not want to answer further questions on the issue and ended the interview abruptly. “I’m all done,” she said.

 

WaveAnother View

Town Councilor Frederick Chirigotis, who in the past has served as town council president for four terms, said he has asked the question repeatedly why the town is replacing its town manager and gotten no answer.

Town Councilor Fred Chirigotis says getting rid of the town manager has been the mission of one particular town councilor.

Town Councilor Fred Chirigotis says getting rid of the town manager has been the mission of one particular town councilor.

“I think we’re changing the town manager because the leadership of the council, including Mr. [James] Crocker, wants to.”

Referring to Councilor Norman’s statement, Chirigois said, “It’s ‘winds of change’ and political whim, but apparently merit has absolutely nothing to do with maintaining stability in the town manager’s office.”

“At least one councilor has someone in mind and he is directing the rest of his group in such a way that he thinks he can manipulate the next town manager. I think what’s happened has really been a disservice to the town.”

Town Councilor Frederick Chirigotis

Chirigotis questioned why Rapp-Grassetti has recently formed a town manager review committee. “Why are they reviewing a town manager they have just unceremoniously dispatched. I think it’s to justify the removal of the town manager.”

Chirigotis said the removal of Lynch is directly related to the removal of the previous town manager, John Klimm.

“I think it’s a continuation. What was started in 2011 isn’t done yet. It think it’s the same mission. What’s different now is the people who wish to make changes control seven votes,” he said.

In answer to some councilors’ comments that it is time for an official search because for 17 years, the town has promoted from within, Chirigotis said that argument makes no sense since the town is and has been well-run.

“I don’t know what they’re looking for. With the previous town manager and to now, a certain group is not satisfied. They have never explained what they’re not satisfied with or what they intend to replace it with,” he said.

Chirigotis said he believes the majority of the council is being manipulated by one councilor who wants the town manager job to go to a friend of his.

“At least one councilor has someone in mind and he is directing the rest of his group in such a way that he thinks he can manipulate the next town manager. I think what’s happened has really been a disservice to the town,” he said.

Chirigotis said there is also an issue of the role of the town council versus the town manager. The town has what is called “a strong town manager,” but Chirigotis said not everyone on the town council seems to understand that. The town council leadership, he said, seems to think the town council runs the town and the town manager “is our employee and does our will.”

Chirigotis said the recent two 7 to 6 votes for town council leadership that fell along exactly the same lines show there is a deep fissure on the council.

“I see that there is a significant split in the town council. Actually, it’s been coming to this for more than a year. This attack on the town manager, it’s personal and it’s really created a problem. It’s not right. The process is not right. Why are we doing this? Why now? Why this way? I don’t see an easy way to fix things,” Chirigotis said.

 

WaveSeeking An Outside Search

Town Councilor James Crocker says the town has not gone out for a professional search for a town manager in 21 years.

Town Councilor James Crocker says the town has not gone out for a professional search for a town manager in 21 years.

Town Councilor James Crocker, who has attributed his losing his seat on the council at the 2011 election to the last town manager shake-up, denied being behind the current ouster.

“The council, in its wisdom said it wanted to hire an outside professional to assist in its search,” he said, referring to the 8 to 5 vote by the council in September 2015.

He said there was a process that began with an update of the job description by a subcommittee that Crocker chaired in the spring of 2015 and then the convening of a town manager search committee to decide whether to hire a search firm.

“These are two different issues.This is the end of a contract. The other gentleman is the end of a relationship that was no longer viable in leadership. [Lynch] served every purpose of the contract and the contract is over. That’s all this is.”

Town Councilor James Crocker

The job description was adjusted to align more closely with the town’s charter, Crocker said.

Both committees were advisory only and the 13 town councilors had the option along the way to negotiate with the current town manager for a contract renewal.

“I can’t speak for all 13 or the eight who voted in favor, but it was that vote that created the path we’re now pursuing,” he said.

Crocker said the town of Barnstable had not had an external search for a municipal leader for 21 years. “It’s time for an outside search,” he said. But he added that the town manager search committee, which he served on, invited both the manager and the assistant manager to apply for the top job.

Crocker, a Republican, is one of several candidates to announce a 2016 run for the Cape & Islands senate seat, which is being vacated by Dan Wolf, a Democrat.

Crocker disputed the argument that the council has split along political lines, with Crocker heading up a Republican faction. He said two of the eight who voted to search for a new town manager are independents. He said, the five councilors who voted against the appropriation for money for a search are all in the same party as the town manager—all are Democrats.

Crocker used the example of his own interest in the state senate seat to question why Town Manager Tom Lynch had not indicated his interest in renewing his contract.

“If I wanted the job, you couldn’t stop me from running for it,” he said.

But Crocker complimented Lynch. “Tom is a good, honest man, a good civic service-oriented guy for Barnstable and the community,” he said.

He said that people who compare Lynch’s departure to the departure of the previous town manager, John Klimm, have it all wrong.

“These are two different issues.This is the end of a contract. The other gentleman is the end of a relationship that was no longer viable in leadership. [Lynch] served every purpose of the contract and the contract is over. That’s all this is,” Crocker said.

Giving the example of the town of Chatham on the Cape, which had a management change several years ago, Crocker said not renewing a town manager’s contract “happens all the time.”

Crocker denied playing an influential leadership role on the council, though he said he is not bashful about speaking out. “All 13 have a leadership role. My position is we all got elected through the same process,” he said.

He pointed out that he lost out on serving as vice president on the council in 2010 by a 7 to 6 vote and has not prevailed on numerous motions over the years. Of the group who voted with him on the town manager change, Crocker said, they have not all voted with him at other times. “I can’t tell you that they’ll follow me into the fires,” he said.

 

WaveA Challenge To Council Leadership

Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum, who ran unsuccessfully against Rapp-Grassetti for the position of town council president in December 2015, has been vocal about the fact that no reason has been given to her about why the town manager is being replaced.

Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum says the issue of removing the town manager has divided the council.

Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum says the issue of removing the town manager has divided the council.

“I hate the fact that it comes down to politics,” she said of the decision to remove the town manager.

Cullum said she believes the eight councilors who have voted together to look for a new town manager have been given a reason but the remaining five have not.

“My idea of leadership is giving everyone the same information, so everyone can get on the same page,” she said.

Both Cullum and Chirigotis said they believed morale at town hall is at an all-time low.

“Tom [Lynch] was well loved by all the managers. If you ask around, people at town hall really respected Tom and the way he handled the position. He’s been really a great leader in many ways. We should be listening to the voices of people who work under him,” Cullum said.

Referring to the town’s top bond rating and strong financial health, she said, “It’s not like he hasn’t done his job. There are just so many unanswered questions,” she said.

Cullum said there is not only a rift on the council but also between the council and management. “It’s crucial that we work together. I hope there’s a lot of bridge-building coming up. There are a lot of problems,” she said.

Cullum said she wonders if the people of Barnstable would be better served by a mayoral form of government, where constituents have more power than the town council.

“I can’t believe one person putting all this in motion pleases the electorate,” she said of Rapp-Grassetti’s role in the ouster.

 

WaveWhat Long-serving Municipal Leaders Say

Charles Sumner has recently retired after serving as town administrator in Brewster for more than 29 years.

He credits his longevity in Brewster to elected officials he worked with and what he called, “a high level of communication.”

He said he liked to work collaboratively with selectmen in addition to department heads.

“I’ve always had really supportive selectmen,” he said.

He said that while there were often disagreements, “I never let it get personal. I never held a grudge.”

On the subject of Lynch in Barnstable, Sumner said he considers Lynch a friend. “I’m not objective about this.” But he said from his reading of the situation, he was disturbed and found it to be awkward that it turned into a disagreement over who should approach whom and what notification is proper.

“The question should be, was he doing a good job,” Sumner said.

He also said that he felt fortunate that over his years as a municipal leader, selectmen would look out for him.

“If I was about to trip and fall, selectmen would say, ‘Charlie, you forgot to do this’ and if the chairman of the selectmen was about to make a mistake, I would be the first to correct it. We would help each other succeed and not help each other fail.”

“The question should be, was he doing a good job.”

Charles Sumner, former Brewster Town Administrator

Sumner said he believes the discord on the Barnstable Town Council will have an affect on who applies for the job. “Any candidate of merit will read the minutes and watch the meetings and understand the dynamics of what they are putting themselves in. That’s a factor. Some candidates, like me, would not be comfortable in that kind of environment, that stress, that conflict. But there are people that like challenges and Barnstable is an attractive job, a robust organization.

Robert Lawton served for 32 years as town administrator in Yarmouth, the town next to Barnstable.

Like Sumner, he also attributed his longevity to “really good boards of selectmen who allowed me to do my work. We all got along so well over the years.”

Lawton also pointed to having a strong chairman of the board of selectmen as being particularly important. “The men and women who held the position really understood our roles,” he said.

“There has never been an announcement of ‘why’ in the Barnstable situation.”

Robert Lawton, former Yarmouth Town Administrator

Lawton said from his viewpoint Lynch looked to be doing a great job and so he was “very surprised” to hear the council was initiating a town manager search.

“There has never been an announcement of ‘why’ in the Barnstable situation,” he said.

He said, in his case, the normal practice would be for the council to ask about his thoughts on extending his contract and typically that conversation might happen around the time of an evaluation.

Lawton said that there can be a ripple affect with a change at the top and sometimes department heads might start looking for other positions.

“There is uncertainty. It’s never good for an organization when there is not a smooth transition,” he said.

He said applicants considering Barnstable will do their research. And these days, research is easy. They can watch the video of the meeting.

“If they look at the turmoil—John Klimm was ushered out and now Tom is ushered out—managers do look at stability in positions. Certainly if there is stability, that is a plus. If there is turmoil, there may be some hesitation,” he said.

 

Wave‘Walk A Fine Line’

George “Bud” Dunham has been town administrator in Sandwich for 25 years and, with the retirements of Lawton and Sumner, is now the longest serving municipal leader on the Cape.

Another admirer of Lynch, Dunham said town municipal leaders have a difficult balancing act.

Town Councilor Eric Steinhilber, chairman of the town manager search committee, and Sara Cushing, vice chair of the committee, give a report of the committee's work to the town council. In the background are Town Manager Tom Lynch and Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells.

Town Councilor Eric Steinhilber, chairman of the town manager search committee, and Sara Cushing, vice chair of the committee, give a report of the committee’s work to the town council. In the background are Town Manager Tom Lynch and Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells.

Between selectmen, town management and all the various town boards, Dunham said, “you really have to walk a pretty fine line to establish decent relationships and keep them.”

Dunham said he believes what has served him the best over the years is establishing relationships with his bosses, the selectmen.

“It’s really important to know that you have the backing of your bosses to exercise your authority in the right way. . . . You really can’t do a great job when you’re always walking on eggshells,” he said.

Dunham acknowledged that the change of elected officials can have an impact. In any given town election in Sandwich, two of the five seats on the board of selectmen can change.

“You can have 40 percent turnover on a board” after an election, he said. Barnstable’s form of government with 13 town councilors elected through precincts is interesting, he said, because town leaders need to be mindful of the good of the entire town, and “sometimes good of town doesn’t meet what precinct needs are.”

 

WaveTown Manager Lynch Weighs In

Tom Lynch served as a state legislator early in this career and headed up the Barnstable Housing Authority before serving as assistant town manager. When Town Manager John Klimm was placed on leave in 2011, Lynch became interim town manager. He was then made acting town manager with a one-year contract. After that contract expired, he was made town manager with a two-year contract. That contract was renewed in 2013. It expires on June 30, 2016.

Town Council Vice President Ann Canedy, who left the council in November 2015 because of term limits, and Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, on the dais at Canedy's last meeting.

Town Council Vice President Ann Canedy, who left the council in November 2015 because of term limits, and Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, on the dais at Canedy’s last meeting.

The town of Barnstable had a population of 45,000 in the last census. It has an annual budget of approximately $160 million. Lynch’s annual salary is about $170,000.

In a job performance review completed earlier in 2015 by the town council, Lynch was deemed to have “exceeded expectations,” the highest mark on the evaluation.

When the dispute with the town council president emerged in July about whether he or Rapp-Grassetti was obligated to begin the process of negotiating a contract extension, Lynch, 69, said, he had told her he was interested in an extension and she said she would get back to him.

Rapp-Grassetti disputes Lynch’s account, saying she asked him to write a letter to the full council asking for a contract extension. By then Rapp-Grassetti had already formed a committee to re-write the town manager’s job description and a process appeared to be underway for a change.

Councilor James Crocker headed up that committee that worked on a new job description for the town manager. When Councilor Jennifer Cullum asked why Lynch was not invited to offer any comments to the committee in that process, Crocker said that the issue came up but, he said, it was determined that it would not be appropriate, because the document is an “employer’s” document; it is not to be crafted by the employee.

Once that committee had completed its work, Rapp-Grassetti in July 2015 formed the town manager search committee, stating that the town manager’s contract was expiring in a year and with no formal request from him for an extension, that meant the council needed to begin the search process for a new town manager.

That came as news to Lynch who said he told Rapp-Grassetti he was interested in renewing the contract.

At the town manager search committee meeting on August 20, 2015, the committee voted to send a letter to both Lynch and Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells encouraging them to apply for Lynch’s job.

“The message to me was, they are looking for change.”

Barnstable Town Manager Tom Lynch

On September 10, the town council voted by 8 to 5 to pursue a global search for a new town manager. Given that vote, on September 16, 2015, Lynch opted to formally step aside and sent a full-page letter to the town councilors stating that he would fulfill his contract to June 30, 2016 and would not be seeking to extend his contract after that time.

Lynch said that pitting him against his assistant town manager, Mark Ells, by inviting both of them to apply for Lynch’s position, put him in an awkward and untenable position.

The 8 to 5 vote of the town council to go for a global search sent a clear message to Lynch. “The message to me was, they are looking for change. So I want to be able to complete my contract without the distraction of a search and hopefully they’ll be able to conduct that in a professional manner with a professional firm and come up with an individual who can really lead us forward in the future,” he said.

Town Councilor John Norman's comments that the change in town manager in Barnstable was about politics and the "winds of change" struck some councilors as an honest explanation of what happened.

Town Councilor John Norman says the ouster town manager in Barnstable was about politics and the “winds of change” and that struck some councilors as an honest explanation of what happened.

Lynch said that he would strongly recommend Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells for the position. “When I hired Mark as assistant town manager, it was because of the skills he had demonstrated as a manager and director of the DPW. He’s a talented individual. He’s a good man. I believe he could lead this town very well. I would absolutely support him for the position.”

Lynch said he struggled with the decision of offering to step aside rather than pushing for a contract extension.

“I wrestled with this in terms of what I thought was best for Barnstable. I did not want to go through the discord that we had before,” referring to the town council’s division over the previous town manager John Klimm.

He also pointed out that most town managers belong to the ICMA, the International City/County Manager Association, and the code of ethics of that organizations states that people should not seek the job of a sitting town manager who is attempting to keep his or her position.

The issue of starting a search before first ensuring that the town manager was leaving the position was also brought up by one of the search firms interviewed by the town manager search committee.

Richard Kobayashi of the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, which will be conducting Barnstable’s town manager search, initially asked the committee whether the position of town manager was, in fact, open.

He said the Collins Center would not embark on a search process unless it was clear that there is an open position, because candidates would not be interested, particularly with the town of Barnstable’s history of hiring from within.

Kobayashi also said that it is customarily the employer who asks the employee whether they are interested in a contract extension.

Lynch recalled that it was this reporter who alerted him that a town manager search committee had been formed and asked Lynch whether would be applying for his job.

“I never expected that I would actually learn from you that they had decided on a town manager search. That’s what surprised me. I always thought there would be an intermediate step of sitting down with the current town manager and then proceed with a search. That’s not the way it happened,” he said.

And Lynch said he is still unclear about the reasons why.

“Why the council would chose not to sit down with me will always remain something that I’ll have questions about,” he said.

Knowing that politics can dislodge a town manager at any given time is not a comfort. “It’s clearly a risk when you operate at this level. It doesn’t make it any easier when it happens to you. You find a way to move on,” he said.

Lynch said his focus now is leaving the town in “as strong a financial position as what I inherited from the previous town manager.”

He said he is conscious of being cautious not to commit the town to any financial endeavor that the next town manager will inherit.

“The new person will take a hard look at the direction the town is going. They may come in with new ideas and a new direction,” he said.

 

WaveWas Age A Factor?

Left without a stated reason for the dismissal and high marks on evaluations from the very council that opted to dismiss him, Lynch said the only reason he is left with is a comment that was said by Town Councilor Ann Canedy of Barnstable Village at an August 20 meeting of the town manager search committee. In the comment, Canedy mentioned Lynch’s age.

“He’s almost 70 years old, so at some point we have to look beyond Tom to the future.”

Town Councilor Ann Canedy

Canedy said the comment was taken out of context by this reporter and that she was responding to a previous comment from town councilor Paul Hebert about the chaos that can result when a management change comes at the top of an organization. She said she was trying to reassure Hebert that chaos did not ensue after the last town manager left.

Canedy’s comments at the August 20 meeting of the town manager search committee were as follows: “This isn’t even personal to Tom. His contract is up. He may or may not wish to have it extended. He hasn’t indicated one way or the other. We have to be prepared to. . . He’s almost 70 years old, so at some point we have to look beyond Tom to the future.”

It was then that Town Councilor James Crocker, who also served on the committee, interjected. “Point of order,” he said. He cautioned that committee members were not to speak of personnel or personnel matters at the meeting. “We really can’t talk about any one person, any one person’s service, one person’s age, one person’s anything. We just can’t go there.”

Interviewed recently about Canedy’s comment at the meeting, Crocker said he remembered the comment and expressed surprise that it was not in the minutes of the meeting. He advised this reporter to ask the town councilor’s administrator Cynthia Lovell, who took the minutes of the meeting, why she did not include it.

“Somebody’s age doesn’t have anything to do with how they do on the job. To me it didn’t reflect what was on the agenda. I didn’t feel it was pertinent.”

Town Council Administrator Cynthia Lovell

Minutes of the one-and-a-half hour meeting, though extensive, with three pages of single-spaced text, do not include Canedy’s comment.

When asked about why the comment was left out of the minutes, Lovell said she did it deliberately.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate. Certainly those that were there, they heard it. Somebody’s age doesn’t have anything to do with how they do on the job. To me it didn’t reflect what was on the agenda. I didn’t feel it was pertinent.”

She said Councilor James Crocker said as much when he cautioned Canedy not to use individual names in the discussion.

Recalling the meeting, Crocker said that both Hebert and Canedy went off point during the discussion and the chairman of the committee, Eric Steinhilber, should have stopped the discussion earlier, but when that didn’t happen, Crocker had to step in.

“I said we’re not here to discuss personalities,” Crocker said.

Lovell said she has been told to keep her minutes brief but, she said, “I don’t like to do that. I like the public to hear the meat of what was going on.” But when it comes to “personal demographics or something that needs to be protected like someone’s age, to me that’s personal information.”

Barnstable Town Hall.

Barnstable Town Hall.

She said in leaving out the comment, she was trying to protect Lynch and the meeting members. “It would be like giving out someone’s address,” she said.

Lovell also weighed in the process of choosing a new town manager. “We’re engaging in a process that our constituents have asked us to do,” she said.

Lovell said, in going out for a search for a new town manager, “the councilors are trying to do what’s right for the town of Barnstable. I think they’re doing that. They have a lot of heart, a lot of integrity, a lot of passion. They’re never going to make everyone happy. They do what their constituents ask them to do.”

That council, deeply divided, will now attempt to come together for what Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, newly reelected to her leadership position as president of the town council, and other town councilors say is one of the council’s most important functions: choosing a town manager.




About the author

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford

Laura M. Reckford is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years in magazines, newspapers and radio. She has also authored numerous Frommer's Travel Guide editions on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

2 Comments

  • Excellent investigative reporting. Although I live in Falmouth, I found the article interesting and well-written. Good job, Wave.

  • How many members of this current council voted to give the enormous severance package to the previous Town Manager? I know there was a recall discussed.

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