Some details, but not many, in sudden departure of former Sheffield treasurer

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SHEFFIELD — The town's longtime treasurer/collector, Michael Ovitt, resigned in August as part of a settlement reached with the Select Board, according to a recently released copy of the agreement.

The agreement does not clearly state the circumstances surrounding Ovitt's departure, but alludes to complaints he had with the town.

Signed in June, the agreement specifically forbids Ovitt from pursuing legal action against the town regarding age discrimination, and unfair payment of wages and benefits. His official last day as town treasurer/collector was Aug. 13.

For many people in town, Ovitt's June departure was sudden. One day, he was behind the desk at the treasurer/collector's office, and the next, Assistant to the Town Administrator Alicia Dulin was there. Dulin, who served in the interim, has since been appointed by the Select Board to be Sheffield's full-time treasurer/collector.

At the time, town officials questioned about Ovitt's whereabouts would only say that he was "on leave." As part of the agreement, town officials and Ovitt pledged to keep mum on the details surrounding the exit.

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The seven-page agreement outlined compensation for Ovitt, as well as his future role with Sheffield. Town officials agreed to pay out five weeks of vacation time Ovitt had accrued and promised not to fight Ovitt if he files for unemployment assistance. As treasurer/collector, Ovitt earned $64,243 in 2017, according to town records. If the Select Board needs Ovitt's help with the treasurer/collector's office in the future, the town will pay him an hourly rate of $35.

Ovitt is a reserve Sheffield police officer and will continue to be on the force. Ovitt will be reappointed to a three-year term upon the expiration of his current term of service, according to the agreement.

Tension between Ovitt and the Select Board dates to at least fall 2016, when the board questioned Ovitt over why the office was behind on certifying tax receipts for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and completing a Sheffield worker's compensation premium audit, according to meeting minutes.

In September 2017, the board held an executive session meeting to discuss "complaints regarding job performance of the treasurer/collector." One month later, on Oct. 31, 2017, Select Board members voted unanimously to hire Scanlon and Associates, a Deerfield accounting firm, to conduct an independent audit of Ovitt's office.

Staffing trouble has been an issue in the treasurer/collector's office since 2016, as well. Over the course of two years, the assistant treasurer/collector's position went through two resignations, one temp and one retirement. In 2018, the board appointed Monique Belair to be assistant to the treasurer/collector.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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