Friday, December 1, 2006
Town Administrator's review meets criticism
A handful of town employees and committee members voiced concerns on November 27 when Selectmen discussed a draft performance review for Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie. McKenzie's contract, covering three years and offering a 6% increase each year, was signed November 14, at which time her review had not been completed. Bill Tice and Doug Stevenson, the two Selectmen chosen to draft McKenzie's review, presented their findings. Stevenson noted that "review of an employee in a public forum is sensitive and challenging," and that proved to be the case, as citizen input alluded to a sense that the review had not included all opinions.
Martha Bedrosian, chair of the Board of Health, the first citizen to speak, said she had three issues. She believed the contract renewal should have been delayed until the evaluation was complete. Also, the "evaluation tool" should have included written results of interviews conducted for the review. Finally, she alluded to two harassment complaints sent to the Personnel Department and Selectmen that involved McKenzie and two members of the Board of Health.
Bedrosian felt the review had been conducted too secretly and noted the review discussion was not published on that evening's agenda. She said, "There are human beings in Town Hall whose feelings have been hurt," and suggested the harassment complaint be resolved before the evaluation is completed.
Stevenson responded, "I respectfully disagree" that input was not sought, noting, "This review was the most comprehensive the town has ever done." Tice said he and Stevenson talked to 16 department heads and employees. Stevenson also noted he had begun the process of looking into the harassment allegation, but "I held off because you asked me to."
Cindy Nock, Recreation Co-director and Chair of the 40B hearings of the Zoning Board of Appeals, referred to "an undercurrent of dissatisfaction or unhappiness at Town Hall."
David Freedman of the Planning Board said the contract has not been well-received in Town Hall, especially the "20% over three years when everybody else is getting 3%." He noted the item was not on the BOS agenda the evening the contract was renewed or the evening the review was discussed, and said, "The perception things are being done under the radar isn't a good one."
Draft review examined
The draft review evaluated McKenzie in each of eight categories. Each section included comments and goals for the next year.
McKenzie achieved high scores in many areas, including resourcefulness, creativity, work habits and resource management. Comments included: "Highly motivated and creative. Drove creation and launch of town web site, technology, and infrastructure improvements at Town Hall." "Excels at effective management of her time." "Tracks department budgets very effectively, this is a clear strength." She also showed "good" leadership with "Excellent, good sound decisions," and strong knowledge of "relevant laws and policies."
Communications skills were "Generally a strong point, especially at public meetings," but the draft review also stated, "Must improve Town Hall communications with the intent of improving overall inter-departmental relations, which are strained at times." The review indentified a "need to see better utilization of Town Hall staff, who report to her."
Overall the review awarded McKenzie a "Good," indicating "performance beyond what is expected of the position." Goals for 2007 include "create a climate of continuous, bi-directional and open communications in Town Hall;" "deliver unwelcome news with tact and diplomacy;"and to "advance the technology plan."
Tim Hult called the review "a good piece of work" and asked for more time to read it before voting. He also said he agreed with those who felt "the review should have been completed before approval of the contract." Tice noted the difficulty of getting input delayed the process, but "it was very insightful to get information from different people" and wondered if this could be the method going forward for other employee reviews.
Hult suggested that the review not be held up pending investigation of the harassment complaint, noting "nothing has come out of that" yet and disciplinary action can be undertaken later if appropriate. It was decided to vote on the review next week during a short meeting from 7 to 7:30 p.m., during which there will be no time for further discussion or input.
© 2006 The