Lots of people were taken by surprise at the announcement last week that former Londonderry Town Manager Dave Caron would be Derry’s new Town Administrator, pending approval of his contract.
There was no mention of a potential hiring on the agenda for the Oct. 4 meeting when the announcement was made. The agenda did include “consultation with legal counsel” in a non-meeting prior to the public meeting. But we all know that could cover myriad matters. No names of finalists were ever released, so there was no reason to think a decision was imminent, although Caron was present at the meeting.
Then an emergency declaration was announced, followed by Caron’s appointment.
In August, Council Chair Brian Chirichiello told the Nutfield News that the Town Council had reopened its search for a town administrator and hoped to have someone in place by September or October. At that time, he noted that after deciding not to rehire Municipal Resources, Inc., to provide more candidates after the first group of candidates failed to satisfy, the Councilors were not using a search firm, although he would not confirm that they were conducting the search on their own.
At the Sept. 20 Council meeting, during Public Comment, former Town Councilor Mark Osborne questioned the Council’s transparency regarding the search. And while under Osborne’s tenure as chair, the Council frequently strayed from a transparent path and received heavy criticism for its actions, he pointed to the current secrecy.
Osborne asked for a timeline for selection of an administrator, and a description of the process. “We just want to know,” he said.
No answers came that evening.
Chirichiello said the following day that the Council’s search is “ongoing.” He said that because everything is being done in nonpublic session, with sealed minutes, he could not say more. At that time, he added that he hoped the decision would be made “sooner rather than later.”
That was Sept. 21.
In his comments, Chirichiello made sure to say both times that there was no pressure to hire an administrator because interim administrator Stephen Daly was handling matters well.
Then came the hiring announcement and vote Oct. 4.
The Council’s choice is not the issue. It surely won’t hurt to have an administrator who knows the lay of the land. But how the choice was made – without any kind of public forum or announcement of finalists – begs the question of why the secrecy.
If there wasn’t a hurry to hire an administrator, then why the emergency convenience declaration?