April 21, 2018
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Veazie Sewer District trustees to discuss controversial three-year superintendent contract

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

VEAZIE, Maine — A proposed contract for the Veazie Sewer District’s superintendent of 23 years has drawn criticism from several residents, including one of the three members of the district’s board of trustees.

Trustee Chairwoman Esther Bushway presented the contract during a February board meeting. The three-year contract promises Superintendent Gary Brooks a $74,500 salary per year plus benefits through Dec. 31, 2014.

Brooks hasn’t had a contract for the past 23 years and said Tuesday that he did not ask Bushway to draft the contract.

“But I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I’m not against it,” Brooks said.

The contract stipulates that Brooks may terminate the agreement at any time after providing 30 days’ written notice. The sewer district trustees may terminate the superintendent’s employment, provided they pay him the full salary for each of the three years, according to the contract. The agreement and Brooks’ employment also could be extended or terminated by the trustees after the initial term ends on the last day of 2014.

On Monday, Rob Tomilson, the newest sewer district trustee, emailed a letter to Veazie residents that questioned the motives behind the contract and argued that it would make Brooks immune from dismissal without paying the superintendent’s full three-year salary.

Tomilson joined the board last year after trustees passed what Tomilson called a “large, unnecessary rate increase.”

“The way I understand the contract is that Gary could get arrested for mass murder … and as long as he didn’t turn his notice in to the sewer district, the district still has to pay him,” Tomilson said Monday.

The second paragraph of the contract states that the contract must “follow the current Veazie Sewer District Personal Policy and the current Veazie Sewer District superintendent job description.”

Brooks argued that violations of his job description or sewer district employee policies would serve as grounds for dismissal and nullify the agreement.

Tomilson also has criticized increasing labor expenses at the sewer district and compared Brooks’ salary with the salary of 30-plus-year Bangor Wastewater Treatment Department Superintendent Brad Moore’s salary of $77,680, a salary Moore confirmed Tuesday.

Tomilson argued that Moore’s responsibilities were “exponentially greater” than Brooks’ because Veazie has a Grade III wastewater facility, which is less complex and serves a smaller population than Bangor’s Grade V treatment plant.

Brooks countered that Bangor operates a municipal facility, meaning that major sewer decisions on liens, rates and complaints are handled by city officials. Veazie’s sewer district, which is a quasi-municipal entity, doesn’t use town employees to do this work and relies on its own staff. Brooks said he essentially has to act as “town manager” for the sewer district, handling situations that town employees would handle in a municipal wastewater system.

Brooks said it is not unusual for a municipal department head to have a contract.

Tomilson called the the contract “one-sided” and said he’s concerned that Veazie residents have had no say in it.

Brooks argued that town managers and other town employees have their contracts worked out behind closed doors in executive session, and that his contract should have been handled in a similar way.

Trustees will discuss the proposed contract at Wednesday night’s sewer district meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the district’s office at 34 Hobson Ave.

Bushway said Monday that she wouldn’t comment on the contract before the meeting.

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