MOUNT DESERT, Maine — The town manager has reached an agreement with the town to step down during the coming weekend.
Michael MacDonald has been Mount Desert’s town manager since October 2001.
The Board of Selectmen decided Nov. 16 not to renew his contract.
MacDonald said Wednesday that he has a buyout clause in his contract that calls for him to receive six months’ pay in salary and benefits if his contract were not renewed. That amounts to roughly $63,000, he said, but his separation agreement stipulates that he will receive $75,000.
As part of the agreement, MacDonald has agreed not to contest his employment status with the town in the courts, he said. The additional money not mandated by the buyout clause is expected to go to his attorney for his personal legal fees, he said.
MacDonald’s last official day is Sunday, although his last day in the office is expected to be Friday.
Tom Richardson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Wednesday that Durlin Lunt Jr., a former longtime selectman, has been named interim town manager and is expected to serve in that role until a permanent replacement for MacDonald can be found.
Lunt, a selectman from 1975 to 1992 and chairman for 12 of those 17 years, has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine, Richardson said.
The chairman said the board likely will start the process of finding a new town manager next week.
“We’re certainly going to discuss the options we have in doing that search,” Richardson said.
The selectmen’s Nov. 16 vote on whether to renew MacDonald’s contract was held at the end of a contentious open session at the elementary school at which selectmen publicly discussed MacDonald’s job performance.
At the end of the discussion, Selectman Rick Mooers voted in favor of extending MacDonald’s contract and board members Marilyn Damon and Charles Bucklin voted against it.
Richardson abstained from the vote because he had been appointed to the board only recently and had not fully participated in reviewing MacDonald’s job performance. Selectman Jean Bonville was not present because she was on vacation.
The review was held in open session at MacDonald’s request, which allowed the public to observe and comment upon the discussion as it was taking place. Under Maine law such personnel reviews normally are held in executive session unless, as in MacDonald’s case, the employee who is the subject of the review requests that it be held in open session.
Richardson said Wednesday that in his opinion MacDonald had served the town well over the past eight-plus years.
“I think he’s done a good job overall,” Richardson said.
In a letter sent this week to local newspapers, MacDonald cited several accomplishments during his tenure as town manager. Among them were: upgrading the wastewater treatment systems for the villages of Otter Creek and Seal Harbor; working with a private firm to help extend broadband Internet service to some underserved parts of town; implementing a new employee compensation system; and contributing land to a work force housing project off Beech Hill Road.
MacDonald, who lives in Mount Desert, said Wednesday he has agreed to help Lunt on a per diem basis as the interim town manager gets up to speed on town business. He said he is not leaving to take a new job and that he expects to continue living in Seal Harbor, where he lives within walking distance of the local public beach and the carriage road system in Acadia National Park.
“We just put an addition on our house,” MacDonald said. “I have no immediate plans.”