HARWICH — Town Administrator Christopher Clark said this week he is withdrawing the assistant town administrator candidate he put forward last week to selectmen because he did not think he had the votes from the board to confirm the candidate.
Clark put forward David D. Flaherty, a Harwich resident and acting town administrator in the town of Raynham, as his choice to fill the position vacated when former assistant town administrator Evan N. Melillo was terminated before the end of his probationary period in early January.
On Tuesday Clark said he will instead put forward Joseph Powers as the next assistant town administrator. Powers is also a Harwich resident who served on the town bylaw/charter review committee and the historic district and historical commission. He now serves as assistant town administrator/town clerk in Wellfleet.
Selectmen met in executive session on April 8 to conduct strategy sessions on contract negotiations for the assistant town administrator position.
“Based on discussion the board has asked for additional information and those items will be brought back to the board,” Board of Selectmen Chair Julie Kavanagh said when coming out of executive session last week. Those items had to do with board confirmations of Flaherty, town engineer Griffin Ryder and executive assistant Patricia Macura as new hires.
Clark said he got a sense from selectmen that he did not have the votes from the board to confirm Flaherty. Under the Harwich Home Rule Charter, while the town administrator is charged with appointing the assistant administrator, the appointment is subject to three or more affirmative votes from the board of selectmen. Clark said the town administrator has the right to poll each individual board member; he did so and realized he had two members who were a “hard no” on Flaherty and three members who were very lukewarm.
“They said they were comfortable switching to 1B – Powers,” Clark said.
Out of the 40 candidates, Clark said there were two finalists he considered as 1A and 1B; Flaherty and Powers.
“I have a strong background in municipal government having served in various elected and appointed positions throughout my professional career,” Powers wrote in his letter of introduction in his application. “As a Harwich resident and former member on several town boards, I have a deep understanding of the fabric of the community as well as the key issues and opportunities in which the town is presently engaged. I am confident that I can make an immediate and positive impact in the role of assistant town administrator.”
Powers served as assistant town administrator in Wellfleet since 2018 and as town clerk there since 2014. He also served as temporary town clerk in Northfield in 2014 and was the town clerk/registrar in Braintree from 2009 to 2014. He has a master of arts degree in communication studies from Emerson College and a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts/Boston. He is also a certified master municipal clerk.
Clark said he discussed the position with Powers over the weekend and he is still interested in the position.
Clark said he cautioned Powers that “while the appointment becomes operative, he can't guarantee what an elected board chooses to do.”
Flaherty has been serving as acting town administrator in Raynham for the past two years. He was hired as a health agent there in 2013 and in 2015 was appointed assistant town administrator while continuing to serve as health agent. Flaherty tendered his resignation in Raynham effective April 19 after he received notice from Clark he was being put forward to selectmen for confirmation.
Flaherty said on Tuesday he was preparing an email he would be sending to Clark, but had no comment otherwise.
Selectmen on Tuesday night were scheduled to address the confirmation of Clark's appointments of Griffin Ryder as town engineer and Patricia Macura as executive assistant. Clark said Power's appointment will be on the board's April 22 agenda.