Great Barrington Selectmen decide not to renew town manager's contract

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Wednesday September 19, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Following two consecutive failing job performance evaluations, the Board of Selectmen on Monday informed Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell that they have decided not to renew his contract when it expires next April.

Multiple members confirmed on Tuesday that the board arrived at its decision while discussing the matter in executive session last week. But the information didn't come out until this week after O'Donnell met privately with representatives of the board.

Those representatives, board chairman Sean Stanton and vice-chair Deborah Phillips, reportedly gave O'Donnell the option of resigning prior to the vote on his contract, but O'Donnell declined the offer.

O'Donnell said he was disappointed by the board's decision.

"I want to remain town manager," he said Tuesday in an interview following several inquiries regarding his job status from The Eagle.

"I've done my best to integrate myself into the town," he said. "Why would I want to resign?"

Board members said they plan to formally vote on O'Donnell's contract in public during next Monday's Selectmen's meeting.

None of the board members who spoke with The Eagle agreed to speak publicly about their decision because they said they wanted to respect the confidentiality of what was discussed during executive session. But the board has made clear publicly in the past that they it hasn't been thrilled with O'Donnell's performance.

In June, O'Donnell received his second subsequent negative employment evaluation in nine months when he was given only 64 of a maximum 125 points. Those numbers resulted in a rating equivalent to 51.2 percent, which is lower than the 67 percent O'Donnell received on his previous evaluation in September 2011.

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The lowest mark on O'Donnell's most recent evaluation was in customer satisfaction where he received 10 of a possible 25 points.

In the anonymous comments included in this year's evaluation,board members stated that O'Donnell groused about the board's decision, feeling the Selectmen were an impediment to his job. Comments also stated that O'Connell disregarded the Selectmen's role, and doesn't follow through on the board's direction.

O'Donnell pledged to improve his relationship with the Selectmen and indicated that he would focus on better communication.

On Tuesday, O'Donnell said that he had followed through on those issues, and lamented that the board hadn't given him more concrete criteria to focus his efforts.

"I thought I was making appropriate, professional adjustments that addressed the board's concerns," he said. "That is what kind of mystifies me."

O'Donnell was hired by the town in 2008. He signed his current contract in 2011 following performance reviews with scores equivalent to 90 and 84 percent. Those scores were submitted by a board with a significantly different makeup than the current one.

O'Donnell said he ís proud of what he has achieved in his years as town manager. He said he managed to get the town's bond rating increased during a severe recession, and reduced borrowing costs by about $60,000 annually.

No matter what happens, O'Donnell said that he plans to continue working through the end of his term, and intends to wrap up the major projects currently facing the town, which include planning for the reconstruction of Main Street, and closing the sale of the old firehouse on Castle Street.

"A town manager's life is precarious at best," he said. "Anyway, I'll try to bring as many issues to a close as possible."

To reach Ned Oliver:,
or (413) 496-6240
On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver


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