June 21, 2018
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Rockland councilor wants probe of community development director’s departure

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A Rockland City Councilor said Monday that she will ask for an investigation into the abrupt, unexpected resignation of the community development director.

“While the resignation of Audrey Lovering from her position as community development director is a personnel matter, it is important that the taxpayers of Rockland do not pay a $20,000 severance package to an outgoing department head without light being shed on this situation,” City Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said in an email to the Bangor Daily News. “And it is essential that the city manager’s role as the supervisor of department heads, and sole decider in matters affecting the employment of department heads, is understood to the taxpayers of Rockland.”

After reaching an agreement with the city manager, Lovering resigned officially on Oct. 10, but she had not worked since Oct. 1. She signed a severance agreement in which she received $21,666 as four months salary. The city also agreed to pay her health insurance through Jan. 31 and agreed to pay her legal costs of $2,000.

Lovering is barred from saying disparaging things about the city, per the agreement. She also drops any potential claims she may have against the city.

City Manager James Smith has declined to comment, saying that it is a personnel matter and state law does not allow him to talk about her departure.

Dickerson said Monday she knows that the city council does not have authority over the department heads of the city of Rockland. That responsibility lies with the city manager who also is personnel director.

“But the council does have authority over the city manager. As such, it is my wish that an investigation of the city manager’s role in this matter be conducted by the city council,” Dickerson said.

Mayor Brian Harden said Dickerson has yet to inform him of her request.

Harden said the council has the ability to do two things with the manager in his role as personnel manager. He said councilors can ask questions about a personnel process or it can call for a formal investigation into the action that the manager has taken.

“I need to find out which thing Lizzie is asking,” Harden said.

He said that because it is a personnel matter, such a discussion with the manager would be done in a closed-door, executive session.

The mayor said that the manager informed councilors on Oct. 10 of the issue concerning Lovering’s resignation. The announcement was made as councilors were in an executive session to conduct their review of the manager.

“Questions were asked. A fair amount of time was spent on that. The council was satisfied with the answers,” Harden said.

Smith said Monday he has no comment on Dickerson’s call for an investigation.

Deborah Johnson, director of the Maine Community Development department within the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said last week that she was not aware of the internal action within the city over the department head’s departure.

Johnson said the state had no problems with the city’s community development department. She said the state had a good relationship with the Rockland department.

Former Rockland community development director Rodney Lynch said Lovering has done a good job including on finalizing the downtown improvement project and on planning for the future of Camden Street once Walmart moves to Thomaston next fall.

“She has represented Rockland well,” Lynch said. He served as Rockland’s community development director for 14 years.

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