Plan To Curb Administrator’s Reorganization Clout Falls Flat
By: Diana T. Barth
Where the town administrator’s authority ends in approving a promotion or new job title within a department, and where the town’s hiring freeze begins, was subject to considerable discussion when selectmen met Tuesday. Selectman John A. Ford Jr. said that the town still has a hiring freeze in place and proposed an explicit policy governing the conditions under which promotions could be made and new job titles added.
Mr. Ford brought forward a proposal that would, as a matter of policy, prevent the creation of any new positions, even if that creation involves a new job for an existing employee and could be done without any addition to a department’s budget. He said he was uncomfortable with creating such new job titles, particularly at a time when the town had cut other positions and had just declined to spend under $25,000 for lifeguards.
That proposition, however, was defeated, four votes to one.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said that, given the number of budget and personnel cuts that were made this year, it was the duty of department heads to look at the remaining staff and run those departments in the most efficient way possible. He said he thought department heads should be able to allocate their staff as they saw fit, as long as they stayed within the budget’s parameters.
If the Bourne Department of Public Works accepted a truck driver’s resignation, but needed a laborer more, hiring the latter should not be problematic, Mr. Guerino said, adding that the creation of an entirely new position, like that of the new director of human resources, was a different story, and would require a waiver of the hiring freeze.
A major departmental reorganization, with the intended purpose of reducing the number of personnel reporting directly to the administrator, is underway. That level of reorganization is governed by the town’s charter and will need to be discussed at a public hearing before being acted on by selectmen.
Selectman Earl V. Baldwin said he was uncomfortable with any “blanket” policy, and would rather discuss any proposed staffing changes on a case-by-case basis. Fellow Selectman Jamie J. Sloniecki said he would like to hear the details of what the administrator was proposing before making any decision.
Chairman Donald J. Pickard noted that selectmen did set policy, but that they needed to be mindful of the fact that, by charter, the administrator was tasked with the day-to-day operation of the town. Mr. Pickard said, by way of example, that if Fire Chief Martin Greene thought he could reduce his overtime budget by $300,000 by hiring personnel at a cost of $200,000, he wanted to encourage that type of thinking…and hear any such proposal.
Mr. Ford had explained that, while the administrator might have the legal right to hire and fire, and approve a proposed promotion and shift in duties, selectmen had the right to set policy that would prevent such actions. He did not want to see any new positions or appointments created until town revenue increased.
Although he intended to discuss his proposal solely at the policy level, Mr. Ford mentioned opposition to the idea of creating a third lieutenant’s position at the Bourne Police Department.
The details of any such proposal could be discussed by selectmen when they meet in a workshop session on August 16. A meeting with members of the Bourne Council on Aging will be the primary item on the agenda for that session.
No selectmen’s meeting is currently scheduled for this coming Tuesday.