Berwick’s interim town manager resigns after FOAA request

Posted Sept. 10, 2012, at 6:34 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 10, 2012, at 3:21 p.m.

BERWICK, Maine — Interim Town Manager Jim McMahon is resigning from his position with the town, according to an email sent to Foster’s Daily Democrat.

McMahon’s resignation, effective Sept. 17, is the result of a recent Freedom of Access Act request, which he says has pulled him into a situation he has no knowledge of and does not want to become involved in.

McMahon, who previously served six years as Berwick’s town manager, agreed to return and serve as interim town manager in June because of his fondness for both the town and its people during a difficult a period.

“I made it clear from the start that I would manage the day-to-day affairs of the town but would not allow myself to be drawn into any past or current political conflicts,” he wrote in his email.

However, McMahon says the recent FOAA request has created a situation where he will be drawn into the conflict.

“I will be forced to spend dozens of hours responding to a new FOAA request about things of which I have no knowledge,” the email states. “This is not something in which I wish to become involved.”

McMahon replaced Keith Trefethen, who announced his resignation from the Berwick town manager position during a Board of Selectmen meeting on May 15 amid controversy surrounding an affordable housing project at the community’s former Sullivan Street School.

Trefethen, who did not return numerous phone calls left on his office answering machine before his departure from Berwick, did not provide any reasons for resigning at that time.

Trefethen was criticized by Berwick residents for work with Bateman Partners LLC concerning the extent of his knowledge for renovation plans, including those to construct a larger footprint allegedly not approved by the planning board in a review of original materials submitted in 2011.

An investigation into the discovery of several alleged violations by Sullivan School Associates LP, a partner of the Bateman organization, was voted to be launched by Berwick selectmen.

McMahon, whose original commitment was to stay until Sept. 17, had agreed to come back in October after his scheduled trip to Europe if a new town manager had not been hired. However, because of the FOAA request, McMahon’s email states he informed the Board of Selectmen on Saturday of his plans to permanently leave the position on Sept. 17.

“I thank everyone for their kindness and understanding and, until this latest event, for allowing me to remain out of the political arena and to focus solely on managing the town,” McMahon’s email concludes. “I will, of course, be available to the next manager should he/she have any questions of me.”

“The good people of Berwick can be assured that the town manager’s office awaits its next occupant with everything left in good order, that a new finance director is on the job, that all interviews for the now vacant planning/assessing coordinator position will be completed this week, and that all current projects are in various stages of progress.”

The Board of Selectmen, which is in the process of searching for a new town manager, will hold interviews with candidates in executive session this week on Monday and Thursday night. McMahon said he is hopeful the board will have a final candidate chosen by the time his resignation is effective on Sept. 17.

© 2012 the Foster’s Daily Democrat

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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