DEXTER, Maine — Dexter town councilors reviewed eight resumes in executive session Thursday for the town manager’s position, but not before they were taken to task for not encouraging current Town Manager Dave Pearson to stay.
Pearson decided earlier this summer to leave his position over philosophical differences with some Town Council members regarding the handling of a situation with the police chief.
“I was told my future with the town was very much connected to the action I took” regarding Police Chief Jim Emerson, Pearson said earlier this year. The situation involved a no confidence vote against Emerson by his four full-time police officers, some of whom had applied for the chief’s position at the same time Emerson did.
An investigation conducted by Pearson found that there had been no malfeasance on Emerson’s part but some “lapses of judgment.” Pearson asked Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, to review the situation and make recommendations. As a result of the recommendations, Emerson completed 90 days probation and participated in some training.
Rather than divide the town on the matter, Pearson said he submitted his resignation effective September 2012, but the council voted to amend that to September of this year. Pearson will serve his last day on the job Sept. 1 after serving the town for 25 years, the most recent as town manager.
“This town will never find anybody any more dedicated to this town than David Pearson, and I think he should stay,” resident Judith Robichaud said Thursday. “I think a lot of the townspeople want him to stay.”
Pearson said Thursday that a majority of the councilors lost confidence in some of his actions, so he felt he must leave. The council has moved on and is now looking for his replacement, he noted. Pearson was hired Friday morning as the new Sangerville town manager.
Resident Missy Smith also said Thursday she didn’t want Pearson to leave. “As far as losing confidence, as a taxpayer I’ve lost confidence in most of the people up there right now,” she said of the council.
No council member responded to the comments.
Christine Pooler, whose dispatch and secretarial position in the police department was eliminated last year during the budget process, specifically addressed Councilors Roger Brawn, Steve Gudroe and Rick Goodwin at the meeting. She said their action to eliminate her position was an effort to “get at” the police chief. That same tactic is being used against Pearson, according to Pooler.
“I’m really disappointed. I feel like I have voted for my executioners,” she said.
Smith asked how much the town saved by eliminating Pooler’s position, considering all the legal expenses that have been incurred and the extra personnel used to fill the void. The council was asked to provide her an accounting of the costs at its next meeting.
Asked by a resident if he would stay as town manager, Pearson said he would if the council asked him to — and some have done that, but it would have to be a majority. He said he has resigned himself to the change and is moving on with other plans. He said he was honored to have served the town and had enjoyed working with the municipal staff.
Earlier in the evening, after an open house in his honor, Pearson raised a cup of punch in the air and said he would like to drink to the health of the council members, who have the best interests of the town in mind whether he agreed with them or not.
“I never questioned their motive,” he said. “They’re doing what they think is best for the town.”