Berwick town manager resigns, finance director retires; board considers next steps

By Amanda Beland, Foster's Daily Democrat
Posted May 17, 2012, at 6:44 a.m.

BERWICK, Maine — Following the resignation of Town Manager Keith Trefethen and the retirement of Finance Director Janet Canney at Tuesday evening’s meeting, the Board of Selectmen will hold a special workshop later this month to decide how to fill their positions.

On Tuesday, the board and Trefethen held a brief discussion on the next steps the town should take in filing the town manager and finance director positions. Trefethen suggested the board work with a municipal resource agency either out of New Hampshire or Maine to hire individuals to temporarily fill the vacant positions until the town can complete the hiring process for the two positions.

Chairman Bart Haley asked if there would be enough time between now and June 30 to hire individuals to permanently fill those positions. Trefethen said because of the amount of work required to hire for the two positions, the process would not be complete until the end of the fiscal year. Trefethen said the importance of the positions to the general operation of the town meant temporary replacements would be crucial for town government.

The board decided to meet on Tuesday, May 29, for a workshop dedicated to the future of the two positions, including hiring permanent replacements. The board asked Trefethen to gather information on a couple of municipal agencies that assist in temporary employment for town employees to be discussed by the Board at the meeting.

Chris Stolpe, who is the coordinator for Berwick’s only nonprofit agency called Table of Plenty, spoke out about the resignation saying it was a good thing for the town.

Stolpe said because Trefethen didn’t live in Berwick he wasn’t entirely invested in the town and didn’t feel the impacts of his actions as much as residents and town employees who live here.

Stolpe said she thought Berwick was heading in the right direction under Haley’s leadership as selectmen chairman, adding that Haley seems to understand Berwick and the financial hardships of its residents. Stolpe said the next town manager should live in Berwick, hinting perhaps the next manager is already on the Board of Selectmen.

“I wish it would be Bart,” said Stolpe.

Chairman Haley said he has been asked by several residents if he would be interested in the position of town manager because they thought he would make a good candidate. Haley said he is not interested in serving the town “in that capacity” and said his service is best given as a member of the Board of Selectmen.

Haley said once the board can “get through this stressful and painful budget process,” the current litigation with Bateman Partners and current personnel issues, he hopes the board can turn its sights toward expanding already existing businesses and attracting new and profitable businesses to town.

Distrust in town employees, and in particular Trefethen, began in June 2011, when the wife of Selectman Joe Chambers purchased a tax acquired property from the town for $20,000 by sealed bid, which was more than $200,000 less than what the property was assessed at.

Before the purchase, Chambers asked Trefethen if any bids had been received on the property and Trefethen said no. Many residents claimed this short conversation was an exchange of inside information and therefore, against the town ethics policy.

Trefethen said the information provided to Chambers would have been available to anyone who came into Town Hall and asked.

Trefethen’s last day will be June 30, the last day of the 2012 fiscal year and just two days after the town’s annual Town Meeting.

Trefethen will share his last day with Finance Director Janet Canney and Town Clerk Judi Buckman, who have both chosen to retire on June 30, as well.

© 2012 the Foster’s Daily Democrat

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http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/17/news/portland/berwick-town-manager-resigns-finance-director-retires-board-considers-next-steps/ printed on July 31, 2014