Lawyer to help settle Etna manager’s exit

Posted April 05, 2010, at 11:33 p.m.

ETNA, Maine — Selectmen and Town Manager Evelyn Serval will seek legal advice before making any decisions about Serval’s departure, which was approved by voters at the March town meeting.

Under state law, the town must remain under the direction of a town manager for one year after the vote, meaning Serval’s position is set to be eliminated in March 2011. Serval, who has been Etna’s town manager for about five years, has said publicly that she is already engaged in a job search and would leave Etna early if she received an offer. However, selectmen appear to be prepared to offer a severance package to Serval in exchange for the promise that she remain long enough to train other employees and selectmen to assume her duties.

The discussion about Serval’s position Monday night came after Serval requested in writing that her position be discussed in public, not during a closed-door session.

Neither the terms of the severance package nor Serval’s exit date were discussed Monday, though Serval said she would like to remain in Etna “for as long as I have a job here.”

“It seems to me that you don’t think you could work with me for the next year,” Serval said to the board, referring to statements she said were made at the town meeting by Vicky Donaldson, who was elected to the board in early March. Donaldson said the board’s relationship with Serval “is working,” although she added that she’s interested in Serval departing early so taxpayer money could be saved.

“My idea is that we come up with an amicable date and time so there are no surprises on either side,” said Donaldson. “There are certain things we need you to get done.”

If Serval were to leave before March 2011, the town would have to attempt to hire someone for the position temporarily — a prospect that Serval and several audience members said would be difficult to accomplish without overspending the budget.

Selectman Andy Watson reassured Serval that the town would balance its interests with hers.

“Your position has been eliminated,” he said. “It’s not about you; It’s your position. If we don’t put some plan together, there’s nothing preventing you from walking away tomorrow morning.”

“Except me,” said Serval, who does not have an employment contract with the town. “I wouldn’t do that.”

The board voted to seek legal guidance from the Maine Municipal Association and revisit the issue at a later date.

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