The recent action of 3 of our Board of Selectmen to fire our Town Administrator has raised questions about what was done, how it was done, whether we need a “New Direction”, and if so how we should develop it and what it should be.
1. Obviously the action that the Board of Selectmen (“BoS”) took on August 26th has caused a lot of controversy. For many of us, it’s not so much the end result of transitioning to a new Town Administrator, but the way it was done. The BoS’s action was unnecessarily unilateral and possibly involved violations of the Open Meeting Law, Fred deserved to be treated better, and Wayland’s reputation will suffer to our detriment because of the callous way the BoS acted.
2. In the Guest Column in the Town Crier, BoS member Tony Boschetto articulated his view of what Wayland’s New Direction should be. I agree with Tony that we would benefit if we could gain broad consensus on a New Direction. Our New Direction should be an agenda item at an upcoming BoS meeting. It might even make sense to have a public hearing where town members are invited to express their views. A New Direction developed as the end-product of deliberation and debate among all five BoS members - informed by input from the public – is the best approach.
3. A specific question about Tony’s New Direction is his comments about the BoS having delegated far too much authority to the Town Administrator (“TA”). The duties of the TA were set by voters when we established the position. The BoS needs to be clear about what changes the BoS can make about its role in directly managing town affairs vs. the TA and what would need to be decided by voters at Town Meeting.
4. I find Tony’s New Direction long on process but short on at least one crucial specific element. The fundamental issue we face is how to lower our tax rate by eliminating or foregoing services or implementing changes to deliver the services we get more cost-effectively. I’m concerned that Tony’s New Direction, by not addressing that directly, would result in lots of well-meaning activity that won’t actually help us make much real change on the fundamental issue we need to confront.
5. Another concern is whether Tony is trying to apply ideas that may make sense in large corporations to Wayland, which is a medium-sized town government. As a town we operate in a unique legal and regulatory context that needs real expertise and savvy to navigate (replacing Fred with a “Whatever you say, Boss” toady is likely to get us in a lot of trouble), and we need to question the value of adding more bureaucracy, process, and paperwork that a town of our size just doesn’t need, and can’t afford.
Gordon Cliff, Highfields Road
While I’m a member of the Audit Committee, the views expressed above are my own.