Oxford expects to ‘finalize’ new town manager soon

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REPORT — Interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott, who is an applicant for the permanent town manager's job, reads her report to the board at its Thursday, July 20 meeting.

OXFORD — Selectboard Chairman Scott Owens said he expects to “finalize” the hiring of a permanent town manager this week.

“It’s still in process. We should have something finalized by next week,” Owens said at the Thursday, July 20, Board of Selectmen meeting when questioned by resident Mark Blaquiere about the status of hiring a permanent town manager.

The board wrapped up its third and final interview session for a town manager on July 13. The town has been without a permanent town manager since former Town Manager Derik Goodine unexpectedly resigned on Nov. 17, 2016, after serving only six months.

Selectmen announced on May 18 they would advertise for candidates for the permanent positions and received 13 applications by the June 15 deadline. The only known applicant is Interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott who, in response to a question by Blaquiere during the public comment segment of the June 15 board meeting, acknowledged she is a candidate.

Board members said the delay in advertising for a permanent town manager was caused by the board’s desire to have Lippincott, who is also serving as the town’s financial clerk, in place during the budgeting and annual town meeting period.

It is not known if Lippincott was interviewed during the three interview sessions.

The Board of Selectmen began its finalist interviews for the position on July 6 and held interviews again on July 11 and July 13.

Although no minutes of those executive sessions were initially kept, according to a July 14 email from Town Clerk Beth Olsen to the Advertiser Democrat, minutes were issued on July 18 after Olsen said she would speak with the legal department at the Maine Municipal Association.

According to the minutes of the executive sessions, which each began at 5:30 p.m., the board met in executive session for only 25 minutes on July 6 and adjourned five minutes later. Selectmen met for two hours and 45 minutes in executive session on July 11, and immediately adjourned. On July 13, according to the minutes, the board met for one hour and 15 minutes, exiting from executive session and adjourning at 6:45 p.m.

The board had posted the meetings for July 11 and 13 as starting at 5 p.m., instead of 5:30 p.m.

The board previously failed to follow protocol when a June 21 meeting was not properly posted to review and discuss applications for the town manager’s position.

The meeting was rescheduled that morning when officials discovered the meeting had not been posted as required by Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA).

Owens told the Advertiser Democrat at that time, that he considered the meeting a workshop (which must still adhere to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act) and took responsibility for the oversight. Olsen, who would normally post the meetings, was on vacation that week.

The meeting was reset for Tuesday, June 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the Oxford Town Office and was advertised as a “special selectmen’s executive session.” Maine’s Freedom of Access Act requires the board to open the session as a regular meeting before it can go into executive session. The regular portion of the meeting is open to the public.

At that time, a majority of the board’s quorum must vote to enter into executive session. The motion to go into executive session must indicate the precise nature of the business of the executive session and include a citation of one or more sources of the eight criteria that permit an executive session, according to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act. Matters other than those identified in the motion to go into executive session may not be considered in that particular executive session. Any motion or vote must be made after going back into public session.

The board can consider employment contracts with new and existing hires in executive sessions.

The board could make an offer to a candidate first before conducting a pro forma vote in public.

Pro forma, a Latin term, that means “for the sake of form” or “as a matter of form,” is used in a variety of circumstances. Many towns hire top management positions in this manner so as to keep the candidate’s anonymity until a contract is sealed between the two parties.

For example, Poland recently hired a new town manager, Matthew Garside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The announcement to the town was made in a statement on June 29,  after the two parties reach a tentative contractual agreement.

On July 6, the Poland board voted on the selection and approved the contract at a special meeting. He began his duties on July 17.

Town manager history

Oxford has gone through a number of town manager changes since January 2016 when longtime manager Michael Chammings left to become Auburn’s community and economic development director.

Oxford Code Enforcement Officer Rodney Smith, who passed away in March, was interim town manager during that vacancy and did not apply for the permanent town manager’s job that Goodine got.

Following Goodine’s resignation, Lippincott was appointed interim town manager on Nov. 17, 2016. She retained her position as financial clerk for a combined weekly salary of $1,889, according to a three-month agreement signed by the board on Dec. 1, 2016.

The agreement was for three months or until such time as a permanent town manager was hired or both parties approved extending the agreement.

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