SHIRLEY -- In the wake of a surprise motion made by Selectman David Swain at a previous meeting, Chief Administrative Officer David Berry has been placed on paid administrative leave until further notice.
Two weeks ago during a budget discussion, Swain called for Berry to resign by the end of the week or face termination for cause. In the days that followed, Berry continued to show up for work.
This week, with Chairman Andy Deveau away, the two selectmen discussed the matter during an executive session following Monday night's meeting.
Berry waived his right to be present, Swain said, adding that the outcome of the closed-door session would be made public the next day.
On Tuesday, Executive Assistant Kathi Rocco confirmed that Berry had been placed on paid administrative leave.
Deveau, who cast the lone vote against Swain's motion two weeks ago, has been a staunch supporter of Berry since he was hired to replace the former town administrator, who was fired for just cause after he was arrested on criminal charges.
The CAO's job description, significantly different by design than that of his predecessor, had been a subject of controversy on the board, as was the process by which he would be evaluated. While Dumont and Swain wanted to use the existing, generic form developed by the Personnel Board and approved by the selectmen, Deveau favored a subjective narrative, specific to the job.
Eventually agreeing to disagree about the evaluation forms, both were used. The upshot was that Deveau praised Berry's performance but Swain and Dumont were not satisfied.
Now, the two seem confident that their reasons will hold up if they choose to fire him.
Deveau, who has since resigned because he plans to move to Florida, where he will be for the next several weeks, plans to stay on the board until May 10 but may leave sooner. He had offered to participate in meetings long distance, but apparently did not do so Monday night, when the selectmen -- constituting a majority of the three-member board - decided to cut Berry loose, with pay.
Given that his three-year contract still has a year to go, Rocco was asked if a lawsuit is anticipated, but she declined to speculate. If Berry sues, the town will be prepared, she said.