HARWICH — The selectmen agreed Tuesday night to drop the “interim” from Joseph Powers' title, making him town administrator, and to have Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine start negotiations for a three-year contract.
The 4-1 vote came after Powers was passed over for the town administrator's job in Yarmouth.
The motion was met with opposition from Selectman Michael MacAskill, who said the action was premature. MacAskill noted that the board had previously been unable to muster four votes to appoint Powers to the position and had agreed to make him interim town administrator for one year.
MacAskill said Powers “exceeded expectation” in the selectmen’s initial evaluation, but the board has fallen behind in its second evaluation. His objection is not about Power’s performance, he said, but about the board altering its course on the one-year agreement.
“I’m voting no on a contract and I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job. But the board is acting backwards,” said MacAskill, the sole dissenting vote.
“I can’t address paranoia on how we’re acting,” responded Selectman Donald Howell, who offered the motion. “Joe’s been in this position for 15 months and done a commendable job.”
To conduct another search would be detrimental to the community, said Selectman Ed McManus. Selectman Stephen Ford said he's also been pushing to make Powers' appointment permanent.
Powers was one of three town administrator finalists interviewed by Yarmouth selectmen on Saturday. The other candidates were Oak Bluffs Town Administrator Robert Whritenour, Jr. and Townsend Town Administrator James Kreidler. On Tuesday evening, less than a half hour before Harwich selectmen approved the motion to make Powers permanent town administrator, Yarmouth selectmen voted unanimously to offer the position to Whritenour.
In his introductory statement on Saturday, Powers told the Yarmouth selectmen he saw the position as a chance to grow.
Yarmouth Selectman Tracy Post asked Powers about his contract status in Harwich during the interview.
“I have not been offered a contract by Harwich. They have offered to negotiate with me,” Powers responded. Selectman Erik Talley asked about his plans to remain in the Yarmouth search process.
“I was asked what is going to prevent me from leveraging this opportunity against the town of Harwich to get a boatload of money and a longer contract,” Powers said. “I say first, I’m the administrator and we don’t have a boat load of money for anybody.”
Harwich selectmen indicated they wanted to talk about removing the “interim” from his position after he told them he was up for the Yarmouth position, Powers said. “I told them I am not ignoring them, but I told them I’m going to respect and honor the process that you folks have started, and I hope they understand and respect my wishes to see this process through to a conclusion,” he said Saturday.