WILMINGTON, MA — At the end of this week’s Wilmington Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Gary DePalma caught residents, and his colleagues, off guard when he requested that a Town Manager search process commence in the near future.
“I’m requesting that the contract for the Town Manager be open. His contract ends at the end of September. I believe it behooves this board to look into the contract and interview individuals regarding this contract. It’s a 3-year contract and I feel we should have all the participation we can,” began DePalma. “This is no disrespect to the current Town Manager. I do believe we should look and see what’s out there and bring it to the attention of the town. Again, no disrespect, but I believe it’s incumbent on this board to look at all avenues when contracts are up.”
“I’m looking to interview [other candidates] interested in the position. I feel that, as representatives of the public, we should always look and see what there is. I’d rather look and see, and take some extra time, and find that our current town manager is the best, and we sign off on it. But just to sit down and negotiate a contract without having any other participants applying for the position I think is reckless and foolish of the board,” DePalma later elaborated. “I would like to see a subcommittee formed. Advertise. Search. If it stays how it is, it is. I believe the residents of the town would appreciate a search.”
“I believe this is what we should do. It’s right. I’m not saying dismiss our current Town Manager. We should at least look and see what is presented to us [in a search]. Wilmington is at a balancing at right now. I’d like to see what’s out there. It’s like anything else. If you’re going to buy a car, you don’t go to one place and say I’ll buy that car, you look around and see what’s available,” concluded DePalma. “If no one has the knowledge and everything our current Town Manager has, so be it. Let’s look and see what there is before we pass judgement. We owe it to the residents of the town.”
Selectman Kevin Caira explained how the board has handled Town Manager Hull’s contract renewal in the past, and signaled his support for Hull once again.
“There’s two approaches that have been taken. Typically we vote to reappoint, and then we go into negotiations. I believe last time what we did was go into negotiations first, and did the reappointment second,” said Caira. “What’s happened in the past is that the chairman, at a meeting, asks who would want to be on the negotiation committee. Usually it’s two board members. Then there’d be negotiation meetings moving forward. Those two Selectmen and the Town Manager would then come to an agreement and bring it to the full board for review.”
“To get to the point that Mr. DePalma wants to, I believe you would have to make a motion to not reappoint [Town Manager Hull]. That’s something for our attorneys to [review]. If we’re not looking to reappoint, then you look to the outside for individuals. But if we’re going to reappoint Mr. Hull, and I’d be in favor of reappointing him, then we’re not going to go through the process of looking for people,” Caira later added. “This board has to make a decision as to whether they want to reappoint or not reappoint.”
Selectman Greg Bendel recommended the board reach out to Town Counsel firm KP Law to learn the process it may want to take.
“I strongly encourage any of my colleagues who have questions about processes, to use KP Law as a sounding board. I encourage my colleagues to take advantage of that,” said Bendel.
Bendel also cautioned the board not to take any votes tonight because this topic was not on the agenda, so the public was not aware and board members did not have an opportunity to prepare and contemplate the issue.
Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony agreed that Town Counsel should be contacted, and further requested that this topic be placed on the agenda for the next Selectmen’s Meeting on Monday, May 24, 2021 at 7pm. O’Mahony would like to see either a presentation from KP Law or correspondence from Selectman DePalma summarizing what KP Law told him.
“I was going to contact KP Law ahead of the meeting, but thought it would be best to speak with my colleagues first in a public forum,” said Selectman DePalma. “I will contact KP Law to see how they think we should proceed.”
“I’d be more than happy to contact KP Law and find out what the exact procedure is on this,” added DePalma. “I’ll see if they want to present it to the board at the next meeting.”
Aside from Selectman Caira, no Selectman spoke to the merits of DePalma’s request or their feelings on the Town Manager’s overall performance. There has been little public criticism of Hull from the Board over the past year aside from some comments made recently by DePalma relative to Article 60 leading up to the May 1 Town Meeting.
Hull, 60, has helped run Wilmington since 1987, serving as Town Manager for the past nine years (2012-present) and Assistant Town Manager for the 25 prior to that (1987-2012).
Hull was unanimously appointed to a 3-year term in 2012, and unanimously reappointed to additional 3-year terms in 2015 and 2018. His current contract runs through September 30, 2021. The board is supposed to notify Hull no later than 120 days prior to September 30 if they do not intend to renew his contract. That deadline would be June 2.
Hull’s current contract can be read HERE.
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