SHIRLEY -- A single item on the agenda under "new business" at Monday night's meeting was the chief administrative officer's job-performance evaluation, an issue that selectmen have discussed several times without resolving it. This time, they voted 2-1 to close the book and hopefully put the matter to rest.
"It's been bounced around before," Chairman Andy Deveau said. "I put an evaluation form together (that) raised concerns."
The gist of the controversy was that the Personnel Board already had an evaluation form on the books for administrators, supervisors and department heads, previously approved by selectmen.
But Chief Administrative Officer David Berry objected when two selectmen, Kendra Dumont and David Swain, used that form to rate his performance earlier this year. Among other things, some categories didn't fit his job description, he said.
Deveau didn't use the Personnel Board's form. Instead, he came up with a one-of-a kind evaluation procedure for the position.
More narrative than form, the document Deveau read through at a previous meeting some time ago grouped his own descriptive text under sub-heads that he said were more applicable to the newly-created chief administrative officer position than the categories in the generic evaluation form.
He did not use numeric ratings.
By design, the chief administrative officer's job description differs substantially from that of town administrator, Deveau explained at the time. Thus, he'd rather not use a checklist of generic categories and numeric ratings geared to the former job title to evaluate Berry.
In addition to the alternative format, Deveau's evaluation of the chief administrative officer cited a list of goals such as strategic planning and other items not included in the generic form.
In an attempt to finally reach consensus, he asked Swain to "take a stab" at editing the document.
Swain reviewed Deveau's form, sectored out a group of items that "look like goals" and tried to incorporate them into the generic Personnel Board form, he said.
Reading through his edited version, Swain noted items he'd added to the chief administrative officer's duty roster, such as correspondence and bringing matters to the board's attention in a timely manner. He also added "contract expertise" to the list of skills the job calls for.
Swain also said he wants to see weekly written reports that tell the board what the chief administrative officer has been up to, in and out of the office, besides updating the board at its meetings.
"Basically, I made adjustments instead of reinventing the wheel," Swain said.
Dumont said there were still missing pieces and some items added to the chief administrative officer's goals and responsibilities, such as mapping out a "succession plan" seemed superfluous to her. Otherwise, the amalgamated evaluation form was "okay," she said.
Talk continued a while, more editing session than discussion. When the wrinkles are ironed out, the Personnel Baord wants to review the new form, Deveau finally told Swain.
But Swain balked. The chief administrative officer's contract states that selectmen can change goals and evaluation topics every six months if they want to, he said, and he doesn't intend to re-submit upgraded versions to the other board every time they do.
"But (this format) is different ... they want to see it," Deveau argued.
Swain agreed to email a copy of the final draft to the Personnel Board.
Dumont made it clear she wanted to bring a drawn-out process to conclusion. "I'm okay with that," she said of the Personnel Board look-see; but the process has been going on long enough already, in her view, and if back and forth ensues, it could take even longer.
"Can't we just go back to the original?" she asked.
Deveau indicated that it might, indeed, be time to settle the matter, one way or the other.
Dumont then made a motion to adopt the original evaluation form, with the added goals attached, as presented.
The motion passed on a 2-1 vote. Dumont and Swain said yes. Deveau said no.