SHIRLEY -- Selectmen again reviewed the process by which Chief Administrative Officer David Berry will be evaluated for his job performance.
The outcome of their discussion July 23 was that a form Chairman Andy Deveau previously created for the CAO position, rather than the generic form used annually for all other town employees, will be used to rate Berry's job performance, with a second look in six months.
The issue has come up before. At a previous session, Deveau differed from his colleagues on the form the CAO evaluation should take.
Then-Chairman David Swain and Selectman Kendra Dumont favored using the numeric rating system and generic evaluation form developed by the Personnel Board.
Based in part on a survey of other towns and in particular on the employee evaluation system used in Littleton, the form was created at the selectmen's request and they subsequently approved it.
But Berry objected. Some categories didn't apply to him and he wasn't prepared to be rated on them, he said.
Although the selectmen agreed they should do better making their expectations clear, Dumont and Swain said they still preferred to be consistent and use the form they had previously accepted.
Deveau, however, argued that the one-size-fits-all form was inappropriate for the CAO, whose job description differs significantly from that of a town administrator.
So he didn't use it. Instead, he created a job-specific evaluation of his own.
His headers didn't line up with the other form's categories, but Deveau's targeted critique was notably more favorable than numeric ratings the other two selectmen came up with.
After some discussion, Deveau said he would take his CAO evaluation form to the Personnel Board. Last Monday night, he reported back.
Deveau said he and Ron Marchetti met with the Personnel Board. Marchetti, who served as interim town manager after the former town administrator was fired, crafted the new CAO's job description, based on long-term goals such as planning, grant writing and economic development rather than routine administrative duties.
That's the direction Deveau was coming from when he veered from the norm to rate Berry. The result of the meeting was that the Personnel Board approved the form "for this position only," he said. "We'll look at it again in six months, see how it works out," he said. "What do you guys think?"
"I have no issue with the overall thought process," Swain responded. But he wanted to clarify a couple of points. For example, how the strategic plan the CAO was tasked with creating fits into the re-framed evaluation set-up.
Berry is "ultimately responsible for that document," Deveau said, with input from others as he deems necessary. The question then becomes, "what's the timeline?" he said.
Swain suggested setting a realistic due date at the next meeting. "I don't want to set him up for failure," he said. But at the same time there should be a sense of urgency to get the job done. "I do want to hold your feet to the fire," he told Berry.
Deveau interjected that the CAO has a "sustainable plan" on the drawing board, but it's still a work in progress and "lacks a framework." For example, who will be involved in the planning process, such as the Town Hall financial team, Finance Committee and the regional school district.
"I want to aim for a point where revenues and expenditures match," Deveau said.
The plan should project "what we spend now out 10 years," he continued, and map out a strategy to get there. "Give us baseline data, achievable goals," he said. And a target date.
Deveau's hopes don't rest with the CAO's strategic planning efforts alone, however. He noted that the Economic Development Committee has been working on projects that click into the big-picture puzzle, with assistance from MRPC and including visions for the village growth area. "I want...their goals to fit into our sustainable framework," he said.
But Swain had another bone to pick with the new CAO evaluation form. One of the tasks he will be rated on is "Succession Management," that is a plan for his own replacement. "That's not typical of municipal government," Swain said.
Deveau said it was all about preparation, pro-active versus reactive management. "If we know someone won't be here in, say, two years, do we just advertise for a replacement (when the time comes) or make changes in advance to get ready?" he asked.
Not just the CAO, either. Knowing ahead of time that a department head or key member is about to retire, for example, he wants to plan ahead to fill those gaps, maybe "pick the brains" of long-time employees before their historic knowledge and expertise goes out the door with them. "That's what succession management means to me," Deveau said.
"We can give it some thought," Swain said.
Another category, "Alternative Revenue Sources" isn't spelled out, in his view. "We need to be more specific" about what that means, Swain said. Grant writing, for example.
Deveau said he's more into "thinking outside the box" for new ideas. "There's endless information out there, but if our goal is to match revenue and expenses, this is part of that."
Swain also questioned another category, "Knowledge of the Job," and where it fits on the standard job evaluation form.
It doesn't. For now, the board will use both forms to evaluate the CAO's performance. Using the new form, Deveau said he would rate Berry on "what he does," while the other form numerically states "how well he does it."
"In the end, we need to come up with a single rating, one evaluation to which he can respond," Deveau said.
Still pressing for a CAO-specific evaluation form, Deveau argued to scratch items that don't apply. Under administration and team management, for example, some items "are not things he does," and should be removed from this review process, he said.
Berry agreed such tasks were not on his to-do list. "Basically, those things are done by the selectmen's executive assistant," he said.
Although Selectman Kendra Dumont didn't support the premise that the CAO's job evaluation form should be one of a kind, she did point out an item on it to be scratched. "I believe all the job descriptions are in and should not be changed," she said. "That work has been done."
"But you (Berry) should see to it that department heads do their evaluations, too," she said. They agreed to change that header to "Goals and Planning."
Dumont said it was a "waste," though, to use the new form as a "test" with a six-month shelf life.
"However it works out, it will apply to me," Berry said.
"Is this a living document then?" Dumont asked Deveau.
"Yes, but only in terms of goals and objectives," he answered.
Dumont said she did not want to tailor a form for a person and in that sense, the CAO evaluation format shouldn't differ much from those of other department heads.
"We want to set reasonable expectations," Deveau countered.
Over the next six to 12 months, the board can "set his marching orders" and adjust accordingly, he posited. Whether the job is in municipal government or not, an employee in any position "should know what his or her bosses expect," Deveau said.
But Dumont wanted to pin it down. "If this is how we're going to do this, I want to see it firmed up" sooner versus later, she said. She also wanted town counsel to review the form, she said, with an eye to whether it's legal to have a stand-alone evaluation for a specific job.
Wrapping up the long discussion, Deveau noted that the Personnel Board had questioned the "summary" add-on at the end of the form. Chairman Paul Przybyla said there should be summaries under each section, to explain the ratings. "I'll make that change," he said.