Oxford rec director resigns

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Recreation Director Kathleen Dillingham spoke at the Board of Selectmen's August 16 public hearing concerning a proposal to open Pismo Beach to the general public.

OXFORD — Citing time constraints, Oxford Recreation Director Kathleen Dillingham has submitted her resignation, effective September 9.

In a two-page letter to Town Manager Butch Asselin, dated August 17, Dillingham thanked the town manager for the opportunity to serve the community but said, “the position requires more time than I am able to commit.”

Dillingham was hired in June by the Board of Selectmen to work 30 hours a week overseeing the department’s facilities and programs. But from the start, there seemed to be push back from some members of the increasingly vocal 11-member volunteer Recreation Committee and others over issues such as outside rentals of the Community Hall involving beer and liquor, and other proposals she attempted to put into place as a way to increase the department’s finances and improve services.

“I am shocked,” said Recreation Committee President Lori Turgeon when she heard about the resignation last week while on vacation. Turgeon said she had not been able to meet with her committee members yet and had no further comment at the time.

Because it is a personnel matter, Asselin said he had no comment.

In her letter of resignation, Dillingham said, “I find my self putting in well more than 30 hours in order to best manage the three facilities, address issues that have long gone undelt with, researching/implementing new and existing programs and/or events. There are also the daily duties of managing social media, emails, phone calls, cleaning, organizing, managing summer staff, and staffing the community center.”

Additionally, she noted, by being provided a town cell phone, it is assumed she is available more than 30 hours per week.

She is also required to attend meetings, participate in a committee and an upcoming subcommittee and receive required MMA training which after three months she had still not found time to do.

The Oxford Recreation Department oversees the Station House Community Center complex, Pismo Beach and the boat launch, along with ball fields in three different locations. The Pottle Field complex also has a field that is used for soccer, lacrosse or field hockey.

Hostility

Earlier this month, the Recreation Committee, Dillingham and the Board of Selectmen met to continue recent, sometimes contentious discussions, on how to resolve what a few have called a “hostile workplace.”

The move came only two weeks after the majority of selectmen voted to allow the Recreation Committee to continue its work, but agreed to meet later to discuss its bylaws.

The action was taken in a standing room only meeting room between members of the Recreation Committee, Dillingham, Asselin and the Board of Selectmen. The meeting was sparked by Asselin’s suggestion that the committee’s activities and meetings be suspended in part because he believes some of the their actions have resulted in the creation of a “hostile work environment.”

“My biggest concern is the creation of a hostile work environment,” Asselin said at that time. He also noted that he has spent an inordinate amount of time on the Oxford Recreation Committee’s needs instead of members going through the proper chain of command, which would be to Dillingham.

Asselin and others said at that time, that there has been an history of contentious meetings, in-house fighting and confrontations with the Recreation Committee.

Dillingham also told selectmen then that she had trouble moving forward with department plans because of a hostile working environment caused in large part by rumors that circulate social media sites.

“I am not a dictator,” she said to some who felt that doing away with the committee would leave a single person in command. Dillingham said she believes in recreation and the need to expand it, but because of “constant push back” from some of the committee it has been difficult to do the job she was hired to do.

Turgeon fought to have the committee stay intact, arguing that without the volunteers many of the department programs would be hard pressed to continue.

Recently, the town also proposed opening Pismo Beach to the general public which drew further debate.

Dillingham made it clear at the public hearing that she took no position on the issue.

Dillingham also serves on the town’s Budget Committee and as state representative for House District 72..

Options

In her letter of resignation, Dillingham provided the following suggestions for the town manger to consider for future operation of the Recreation Department.

  • “I would suggest that the Board of Selectmen seriously look at what this position is asked to do and consider making this a full time position through the next budget cycle. If that is not agreeable to the board, then perhaps they should consider hiring another year-round and part-time employee to assist in staffing the Community Center which would allow the Director to have time to address the other managerial duties required of the position.
  • “If there is no desire  in expanding the position and department, another alternative to consider would be to return the duties of managing, creating and implementing any program and events back to the Recreation Committee. The town could hire a custodian to staff the Community Center for 30 hours with duties of managing the schedule of activities for the Center, answering the phone, and taking care of the janitorial duties. The Town Manager could oversee any managerial duties related to facilities maintenance, budgeting, purchases, etc.
  • “I would also suggest having a discussion with members of the Oxford Baseball Softball Association (OBSA) to see if they have any interest in fully taking over the ball program. From what I can tell, they have done an excellent job in growing and administering the program. The Town could come to an agreement with them about a schedule of use of the fields and buildings. The Town could also all0w OBSA to retain registration fees to supplement monies that they raise through other means to support the ball program to purchase equipment and such. If OBSA has interest, I believe through open discussion the details could be worked out that would best benefit the children that participate in the ball programs.”

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net