O'Donnell blasts Great Barrington Selectmen on his way out the door
GREAT BARRINGTON -- Departing Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell touted the town's direction, but slammed the current Board of Selectmen in his final week before leaving the position.
O'Donnell's final day managing Town Hall is today after his contract wasn't renewed. Before his departure, O'Donnell called the town's governing board "dysfunctional" and described his relationship with the Selectmen majority as "hell" since 2011.
"I felt I did everything a professional manager could do," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell was hired by the town in 2009. He associated his difficulty working with the Selectmen with what he called their indecisive decision-making, inability to articulate what they want, and lack of a clear direction. He attributed their decision not to renew his contract to "politics."
"I hate leaving the community, but I understand when the political winds shift they don't have to have good solid reason and the manager goes on."
O'Donnell will be replaced by Jennifer Tabakin, a senior project manager in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration. A contract has not been signed yet, the board's Chairman Sean Stanton said.
Stanton said he was against "airing dirty laundry," but he responded to Tuesday's comments from O'Donnell by stating the board's decision was based on the town manager's refusal to accept accountability for actions and overstepping his role as town manager.
"I don't believe this as an issue of the Board of Selectmen, but the town manager," said Stanton, who added the board was not provided clear and complete information at all times by O'Donnell.
"I don't think this board will have any difficulty with a new town manager," he said.
O'Donnell, 62, said his Great Barrington home is currently on the market and he would consider moving "west" now that he is no longer employed here. He will explore consulting opportunities and interim town manager work.
O'Donnell stated that the town was on a positive footing. He identified a positive bond rating and said the town has developed a five-year capital improvement plan. Hired during the 2009 national recession, he said there have been no layoffs and services have been expanded.
O'Donnell also spoke highly about a multi-million reconstruction project of Main Street, calling it a "good project."
He identified his greatest accomplishment as working with Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh to have the department accredited by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission. "It requires a department to really get its house in order," O'Donnell said.
Stanton and O'Donnell both identified a disagreement from 2011 concerning management of the library as an early source of discord.
Ambiguity in the town charter left it open-ended as to who was in charge of the library.
O'Donnell believed it was under his purview to resolve the answer, but Stanton said this was one of several examples where O'Donnell acted without consulting the Selectmen and overstepped his responsibilities. O'Connell disagreed with that assessment and said he acted based on town counsel's opinion on the matter.
O'Donnell expressed thanks to those who approached him with kind words.
"I am deeply moved and humbled by those who have come up to me to praise my management in the community and expressed sadness about me leaving," O'Donnell said.