LENOX -- Following an animated discussion focused on communications and follow-through issues, the Select Board voted unanimously and rated Town Manager Gregory Federspiel’s job performance as "satisfactory" this week.
Report card choices included "very satisfied," "satisfied" or "dissatisfied," said Select Board Chairman John McNinch, summarizing the individual evaluations submitted by the five members and Town Hall employees.
"There’s things that we need to look at as a board, our processes," McNinch stated, addressing Federspiel. "There’s things we need to work at on communication, with you. This board has made strides to try to become more transparent, to open it up to everybody. This board has worked with you to move things forward."
The annual evaluation for the town’s chief executive officer, conducted during a public meeting at Town Hall, turned into a critical self-assessment of the Select Board’s own job performance.
McNinch, referring to the town government’s overall budget, declared that "there’s issues in this $25 million corporation, there’s issues in every $25 million corporation, or smaller or larger."
"You are everyone’s target," McNinch told Federspiel. "I know that, I feel bad for you. Some of it is rightfully placed, more of it is not. A lot of it is on this board and what we do."
Federspiel’s current contract with the town expires on June 30. He has been town manager for 13 years. McNinch told The Eagle after the meeting that he expects the contract to be renewed for a year, in tandem with other town employees’ one-year agreements. He said town employees will be offered three-year contracts as of July 1, 2013, in order to be on the same contract schedule as the School Department.
Selectman David Roche, who presented the motion that resulted in the 5-0 vote, noted that evaluations of Federspiel from Town Hall staffers indicated a "low satisfactory." Roche added a "caveat" suggesting a "redefining of tasks so he knows exactly what he’s accountable for in the coming year."
Selectwoman Dia Trancynger, who has chosen not to seek a second, three-year term, proposed a revised job description as well as more help from Director of Administrative Services Mary Ellen Deming "to get some of the pressure off Greg Š to give him some more freedom to do what he needs to do."
"Communication with the employees and the board" was a key issue identified by Selectwoman Linda Messana, who has also opted not to seek re-election. Citing the evaluation she submitted, "follow-through stood out, making sure all the information is given out. There should be less relying on Greg and more of the board doing their own research to get their total information."
McNinch told Federspiel to "put a sign on your door every once in a while saying ‘Do not disturb.’ Then, do what you have to do to get done."
Trancynger expressed concern about members of town committees "who sign up and don’t show up. I find that completely unacceptable." She contended that "we take the time, we discuss things and then nothing is done."
"A lot of this stuff is a critique of our process, not of Greg," McNinch observed.
But Transcynger disagreed, declaring that "Greg has to prioritize how he does his business. Š When you have something that’s important, there needs to be follow-through."
"Greg ends up being the whipping boy for the Board of Selectmen," Roche asserted. "If things aren’t right, he’s the fall guy."
He pointed to a shared-services study that suggested more help in Town Hall. "We need to redefine some responsibilities to be pushed off on other folks or new folks," he said.
Selectman Kenneth Fowler suggested that to avoid overload, individual members of the board should zero in on specific issues, adding that it’s up to the full board to make sure there’s follow-through. He also questioned the effectiveness of the board’s discussion on Federspiel’s evaluation.