While the process for the appointment of a new Town Administrator for Derry raised a few eyebrows, Town Council Chair Brian Chirichiello said he and the Council followed standard procedure to fill the position.
Former Londonderry and current Jaffrey Town Manager David Caron was unanimously approved as Derry’s next Administrator at the Oct. 4 Council meeting, and was introduced to the community immediately after the nonpublic session, as previously reported by the Nutfield News.
Community members had several questions about the process, including the fact that hiring an administrator was not on the agenda and that his appointment was announced as an “emergency” measure.
“There was no emergency,” community member Marc Flattes said. “And there was no transparency.”
“We have a new Town Administrator and I wish him well,” former Council Chair Mark Osborne said in a phone interview last week.
Community members criticized the Council that Osborne was part of for a lack of transparency, and Osborne observed that it seems hypocritical to him.
“This board,” he said of the current Council, “campaigned on transparency. It was the only thing they talked about when they were running, and the only thing they haven’t delivered on.”
Osborne said he understands the need to keep the candidate confidential under RSA 91:A. He’s more concerned about the process the Council used to find Caron.
Also, Osborne said, “I thought the way they announced Mr. Caron’s appointment was shabby and classless. There was no emergency. They could have waited, and put him on the agenda.”
If the Council members were all brand-new, Osborne said he could have understood the slip-ups. But, he said, “They also campaigned on experience.
“It was a purposeful way,” Osborne said, “to hide the announcement from the press and their political opponents.”
The process they did use did Caron and the community a disservice, according to Osborne.
Janet Fairbanks, also a former Councilor, said, “The current Town Council lacks the transparency of previous boards. We were not made aware of the process.”
The Council “thought it was covered by RSA 91:A,” Fairbanks said, adding that RSA 91:A does not cover the methods or process used to procure an employee. “It covers land acquisition, discussion of an employee or of a prospective employee,” she said. “The process is not protected by 91:A.”
“What was the harm,” Fairbanks asked, “in coming forward? Not divulging the details points to a lack of transparency.”
And she too pointed out that the new Councilors ran on a platform of transparency.
Chirichiello said in a phone interview Oct. 12 that the Council followed the Council rules. An emergency item can be added to the agenda at the convenience of the Council, he said, and as Caron was present that night, “We wanted to introduce him.”
Last year several community members petitioned the then-Council to revisit eight budget votes, again according to the Council rules. “It’s ironic,” he said, “that that Council didn’t want to listen to the petitioners because they didn’t think it was covered in the charter.”
Chirichiello also described some of the process for selecting Caron. “The seven Councilors,” he said, “used any and all ways available to find an administrator.”
Caron was recommended by several contacts, Chirichiello said. “He was not looking to leave Jaffrey,” Chirichiello said. “We approached him, talked with other people, and interviewed him two times.”
Caron was not brought forth to the public until after the unanimous vote to hire him, Chirichiello said, because in the past an Administrator candidate was interviewed in a community forum. “He went back to the place where he was employed and they let him go,” Chirichiello said.
Chirichiello thinks Caron will fit Derry’s needs, and pointed to the unanimous vote. “To appoint an administrator, we only needed five out of seven Councilors,” he said.
The Council discharged Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI), the Meredith-based firm that had been doing its search, after MRI produced three finalists and none of the three received five votes. “That was MRI’s top three,” he said, adding rhetorically, “Why go back to them?”
The previous Council spent $14,000 on the MRI search, Chriichiello said, while this Council spent “a couple of thousand” on background checks and other components of the search.
Caron has the chops to serve Derry, Chirichiello said. “He is used to working in a community this size. He was in Londonderry for 10 years. He understands the Exit 4A issue,” he noted.
“He knows the players and the issues,” Chirichiello added.
In addition, he said, Caron understands the implications of 4A for Derry’s economic development (see related story page 1).
The Council was looking for a candidate with a strong economic development background, and Chirichiello said he thinks they’ve found it in Caron. The recent development in the Londonderry area is partly due to Caron, he said, noting, “The fruit of his work is what’s happening in Londonderry now.
“He will hit the ground running,” Chirichiello said.
A new beginning
Caron has a degree in public management from the University of Maine and a graduate certificate in Organizational Conflict form the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has worked in local government for 35 years.
The Derry job seemed like a good fit for Caron, he said, because they were looking for economic development experience. “They had a clear directive from the community,” he said.
“It seemed like an appealing opportunity,” Caron said.
He has worked in Jaffrey for four years and listed the similarities between the towns, including Jaffrey’s downtown and TIF (Tax Increment Finance) districts.
Caron will continue to live in Belmont, his home of 35 years. He and his wife Loretta, an educator, have three adult children and two grandsons.
He currently serves on the New Hampshire Enhanced 911 Commission, the New Hampshire Municipal Association Board of Directors, and the New Hampshire Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission, and is Trustee of Trust Funds for the Town of Belmont and treasurer of the non-profit Winnipesaukee Skating Club, owners of the Laconia Ice Arena.
He will begin work in Derry in December.