Bourne Selectmen Veto Town Administrator’s Pick For COA Director
By: Diana T. Barth
It is back to the drawing board as the search for a new Bourne Council on Aging director continues. Selectmen exercised their option under Bourne’s Home Rule Charter this week and vetoed the town administrator’s recommendation for that position at their Tuesday meeting, the day after Grace L. Nadeau had been scheduled to begin work as the COA department head.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino had announced Ms. Nadeau’s selection at the selectmen’s meeting of Tuesday, April 17. Donald J. Pickard, chairman of selectmen, said he was blindsided last week when he learned, via a newspaper article sent to him by a resident, that Ms. Nadeau had been fired from her previous position as director of Fairhaven’s Council on Aging. She had held that post for only seven months.
The article, which Mr. Pickard sent to his fellow board members, raised a number of questions in selectmen’s minds, and they decided to discuss the matter before the expiration of the time allowed by the charter for a veto of the administrator’s selection.
After discussing the matter in executive session Tuesday, selectmen addressed it in open session. In what became a mildly contentious discussion, selectmen learned that there was a difference in recollection among the members of the committee who interviewed the six finalists for the COA director’s job.
Human Resources Director L. Troye Thompson said Ms. Nadeau was upfront about the firing and began her interview by clearly disclosing that she had been “asked to leave” her previous job. Mr. Guerino said the same.
Ms. Thompson said she had checked Ms. Nadeau’s references, and when she did not receive a response from Fairhaven, Mr. Guerino called that town’s administrator, Jeffrey Osuch. Mr. Guerino reported that he was satisfied that Ms. Nadeau was a viable candidate after that conversation.
Ms. Nadeau had come into the Fairhaven job in difficult circumstances, in the wake of difficulties between the board and her predecessor.
The two other members of the selection committee, COA board Chairman Estelle H. Blake and Acting COA Director Lois Carr disagreed with Mr. Guerino’s and Ms. Thompson’s recollections, however.
Ms. Blake began by saying there had been “blatant lies told here tonight.” She and Ms. Carr both said Ms. Nadeau did not disclose that she had been fired.
Ms. Blake also told selectmen that she had initially had difficulty obtaining candidates’ resumes, having to ask four times for them. Then, she said, when she asked Mr. Guerino about expanding the committee beyond three people to include Carol A. MacDonald, the chairman of the Friends of the Bourne COA, Mr. Guerino’s reaction was that it was just a department head position and it was “not that big a deal.”
Although he did not choose Ms. MacDonald, he did include Ms. Carr in the interview process. Ms. Blake said, however, that Ms. Carr did not see the candidates’ resumes until the time of the interviews.
The town received 38 applications for the COA director’s job. The person first selected for the position declined the town’s offer, Ms. Thompson told selectmen. Ms Nadeau was then offered, and accepted, the job.
Selectmen did not discuss Ms. Nadeau’s qualifications in open session this week, but did find fault with the process and the clarity of the information provided to the town. “I’m bothered by this,” Mr. Pickard said of the testimony he had heard, mentioning particularly the timing of Mr. Guerino’s call to Fairhaven, which he indicated came late in the process.
After the open discussion, selectmen voted 3-1 to veto Ms. Nadeau’s selection, with Selectman Earl V. Baldwin casting the dissenting vote.
Reached yesterday by telephone, Ms. Nadeau said, emphatically, that she had explained the circumstances of her leaving Fairhaven during the interview process. She said she did not think anyone was aware she had been fired when she went into the interview process, so she carefully went through every issue that had been raised in the newspaper article that later prompted the selectmen’s review, from a failure to buy a time clock to concern over that town’s adult supportive day program.
She said she had made it very clear during that interview that she had been “invited to leave” Fairhaven.
“I would be a fool not to have done that, “Ms. Nadeau said. The disclosure of the circumstances of her leaving Fairhaven was a way of saying, “This is who you are hiring,” she said; further, she was aware that the circumstances of her firing were a part of the public record.
When asked about her wording, she did recall using the word “fired.”
Ms. Nadeau also said she was tremendously disappointed that she would not have an opportunity to serve Bourne’s seniors and the town. She said she had thought that she would enjoy working for Mr. Guerino, who she said had praise for the town’s department heads and employees each and every time she had spoken with him. She added that she thought all of her work history, background and work ethic, would have made her a valuable town employee. However, “It’s done,” she said.
Along with disappointment, Ms. Nadeau was “angry that two town employees had been maligned as liars.”