Outgoing Becket administrator: ‘I challenged people to do their jobs and was rebuffed'
BECKET -- Outgoing Town Administrator Craig Kleman defended his job performance, criticized town heads and he said no "outsider" can succeed leading entrenched Town Hall employees on Wednesday at his final Select Board meeting.
During a closed-door executive committee meeting on Dec. 5, Kleman and the Select Board agreed to part ways after he received a poor performance evaluation from town department heads and some Select Board members.
Before a sparsely attended meeting Wedneday, Kleman in a short two-minute prepared statement elaborated on why employees were critical, saying he challenged some department heads to do their jobs better.
"Personnel issues have been my biggest failing in that I expect people to do their job but this is impossible when you have a mature workforce that has long been entrenched and believes that they are entitled," Kleman said.
"No outsider coming into this job can succeed. I challenged people to do their jobs and only was rebuffed."
Kleman said some town employees are resistant to change, which would make it difficult for a new town administrator. He said he challenged a department head to produce a budget, but he was questioned because they had never previously been asked to do so.
He singled out another department head who "has it in their mind that the town administrator is their personal secretary and was too lazy to find out answers that were only a cell phone call away."
Department heads eventually would go around his back and talk to the Select Board, he said.
On Thursday, Kleman said he was challenged leading the town in the final few months because there was one department who had stopped communication altogether.
"You have to work with chain of command," Kleman said.
Select Board Members Jeanne Pryor and William Elovirta, following the conclusion of Wednesday's meeting, said that communication was a reason why a majority of the board did not support extending Kleman's appointment as town administrator.
Pryor, who said that she shared a difference in opinion with Kleman, said she had approached him about the problem and that select board found it difficult to get a follow-up response to many questions.
Pryor said that it was unforunate that a solution could not be found.
"My opinion is he was not hands-on with personnel and they were uncomfortable asking questions and they felt they couldn't. They were uncomfortable [talking to him]," Pryor said.
Elovirta said that the new town administrator would need to improve Town Hall morale.
"There has to be communication between the department heads and administration," Elovirta said.
Kleman's contract expires on Dec. 31, but his final day is today. Kleman said he has five vacation days and he intends to use them to complete his term through the end of the year.
Committee heads and a community member expressed words of support for Kleman at the meeting.
"They hindered his ability to do his job by micromanaging like [the Select Board] always does," said Maple Street resident Colleen O'Connor.
Joseph Kellogg, who has previously worked at Sheffield and other towns as town administrator, was appointed interim administrator while the Select Board proceeds with the process to hire Kleman's replacement.
Kleman said his accomplishments include grant work that will go to Fire Station #2, energy efficiency, and infrastructure work that has occurred in North Becket Village. Kleman also said he pushed through computer improvements and Town Hall was also upgraded.
Kleman also oversaw the selection of a new police chief, a divisive issue.
"I know in my heart that I can hold my head up high in the belief that I have served this town admirably but that and 30 cents used to get you across the Hudson River," Kleman said, concluding his remarks.