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Town Manager's Term Extended for Three Years Despite Effort to Stall

Groton's top administrator, Town Manager Mark Haddad, will continue to serve in his leadership capacity for the next three years following a vote by the majority of Selectmen to renew his contract through July 2016.

The Board's meeting on Nov. 13 was called specifically to act on renewal of the contract which has been in negotiations since July. Chairman Stuart Schulman and colleague Josh Degen were given the task by their colleagues on Board to conduct a review and negotiation with Haddad.

Schulman said that the three-year agreement had the "general contours" of the existing contract, with set increases over the next three years, four weeks of vacation and a four-month severance package in the event of termination without cause. Salary for the position was set at $118,821.

Degen said that comparables with similar positions in other towns were difficult to get as communities have different hours, adding that Massachusetts Municipal Association data was only somewhat better. "We felt that what we negotiated is fair and equitable for the town and for Mark," Degen said.

Selectman Jack Petropoulos told his colleagues that he had one other issue with the contract - but that he wanted to discuss it in executive session, before casting his vote.

Selectmen Peter Cunningham said he was "comfortable with the contract...and that it was handled professionally...and is in a professional salary range."

Selectmen Anna Eliot moved to approve the contract, but Petropoulos continued to push for some further discussion in executive session. Degen supported him, suggesting that the Board could go into executive session, talk about Jack's concerns, and return to vote in public session.

With a motion on the table, Cunningham said that the Board should vote it up or down, that it was fully negotiated by Schulman and Degen. "I am prepared to go ahead with the vote," Cunningham said. Eliot added that she found it "very peculiar that this is brought up now, as we have been negotiating this since last July. We have done this in accordance with our policy."

Schulman stressed that Petropoulos' "issue was already discussed in executive session" and he objected to Petropoulos "bringing it up at this final hour. I don't think it is fair. You are attempting to jerk this guy around."

Degen said he knew "what Jack wants to talk about. I'm not sure that I buy into it, but I will abstain on this vote." Eliot responded, "We all know Jack's concerns but we need to adhere to our policy. We can't be held hostage by one member. We have a document and we should not dance on it. All these issues that he brings up we already talked about in executive session. We have to make a decision. If we do this he will just invent another issue."

Schulman agreed, adding, "We have discussed this ad nauseum." Eliot said, "Jack has spoken and we have listened." Petropoulos said that he still had more to discuss in executive session, but Eliot said, "You called an end to it (at an earlier executive session) because you were not getting your way."

Schulman then called for the vote. He, Cunningham and Eliot voted yes, Petropoulos voted no and Degen abstained.

Groton Herald

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