Great Barrington town manager vows to improve

Tuesday July 10, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- In the wake of his second poor evaluation in nine months, Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell on Monday again pledged to improve his job performance -- and his relationship with the Select Board.

At a board meeting on Monday night, members said they were not prepared to take steps that would lead to O'Donnell's removal, but they did indicate they will work to create clear benchmarks to gauge his performance going forward.

Among the board's concerns were a lack of communication and failure to meet board objectives.

In a five-page memo to the board, O'Donnell noted a variety of positives that have happened under his watch and laid out a plan to have more regular meetings with the board chair. He also said he is willing to meet with other board members on their time schedule to discuss specific town matters.

"When it's convenient for the board members, I'll make it convenient for myself," he told the members during the meeting.

O'Donnell said he and the rest of the staff will include timetables for issues the board is seeking to address. And in his memo he said he will "continue to show heightened emotional, intelligent leadership."

O'Donnell received a total of 64 points out of a possible 125 in his latest review, the equivalent of 51.2 percent. That follows a score of 67 at O'Donnell's review last September.

Selectwoman Deborah Phill ips took issue with O'Donn ell's mention that board Chairman Sean Stanton said the review was "satisfactory."

"The fact that there was no improvement in the score from the last one is not satisfactory," Phillips said.

Phillips reviewed several of the comments made by the board in its evaluation. Comments, which are listed anonymously, included concern that O'Donnell "grouses" about the board's decisions, feels the board is an impediment to doing his job, disregards the board's role and doesn't follow through on the board's direction.

Selectwoman Alana Chern ila also said the board needs to stand by its review and said she was struck by O'Donnell's "lack of taking responsibility for the comments, which were quiet weighty."

"It's important for us to decide what we want to see because it's our responsibility," Chernila said. "People elected us to make sure this town is being run correctly."

Others were more supportive of O'Donnell.

"Kevin's got some challenges but he's also got some tremendous skills," said Selectman Andrew Blech man, adding that the scores "aren't necessarily as bad as they seem."

The board is set to meet again on Wednesday to discuss its strategic planning priorities. At that meeting, board members said Monday, they will look at ways to set specific benchmarks for O'Donn ell's job performance going forward.

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