Legal opinion sought on hiring process

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Bridgton continues to be on a rocky path when it comes to the Community Development Director position.

This Friday is the filing deadline, and to date, the town has received just four applications. Selectmen could reopen the process, but at their recent meeting, decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

The CDD position has been somewhat contentious since the town moved on from Audrey Knight after a brief tenure. Before seeking new applicants, Selectman Bear Zaidman suggested that the town explore other options, including contracting for planning services with the Greater Portland Council of Government. Ultimately, selectmen decided to seek a new CDD candidate.

A new bump in the road emerged at the recent selectmen’s meeting when Zaidman questioned the authority of the town manager to hire a department head. Zaidman requested that a legal opinion from Bridgton’s attorney be sought regarding the authority of the manager and selectmen to hire a department head. The motion passed 5–0.

By state statute, “The employment of all personnel shall be the responsibility of the town manager as follows — the town manager shall appoint, subject to confirmation of the board of selectmen, supervise and control the heads of departments…”

Town Manager Bob Peabody noted that appointment of a hiring committee is part of the hiring process and falls under the purview of the town manager. If the hiring committee included members from other town committees, then the manager requests selectmen to approve appointments.

Zaidman, however, would find it difficult to “confirm” a new CDD hire if he was not part of the interview process.

“I can’t do my duty to the town if I’m just going to say, ‘Okay’ to something,” he said. “I don’t feel comfortable with that. In an interview, I hear what a person says. Then, I can confirm yes or no.”

Based on Zaidman’s comment, Peabody responded that the perceived suggestion was that all five selectmen would be part of the interview panel.

Immediately, Board Chairman Greg Watkins felt the manager’s comment was “out of line.” Watkins feels the CDD position remains a contentious topic, and was the one that pushed to bring the matter of the hiring process to the selectmen’s table for discussion.

“We will resolve whether or not to have a (hiring) committee or have it handled by the town manager and staff,” Watkins said. “(Without) snide remarks.”

Peabody countered, “With all due respect, it was not a snide remark, but a question whether all five or not.”

Watkins noted that past interview committees did not include all five selectmen.

Zaidman cited the town’s Personnel Policy (Article 1, Sections 2 and 3) in regards to selectmen’s role in the hiring process, which he feels needs to be clarified by the town’s attorney.

In other selectmen’s notes:

  • Capped warrant. If taxpayers want to make any changes in the figures presented at the annual town meeting in June, they can only reduce.

Selectmen voted 5­–0 to go with the “capped” format rather than “open-ended.”

  • Adjusting market space. With reseeding of a section of Depot Street this spring, the Bridgton Farmers Market gained permission from selectmen to utilize space in front of the Bridgton Community Center to accommodate up to six 10x10 foot spaces.
  • Installation needed. Several repaired wayfinding signs will soon be installed around town, Public Works Director Jim Kidder reported.
  • BFD lands grant. The Maine Forestry Service has awarded the Bridgton Fire Department a grant of $1,180 to purchase 13 forestry jackets, 300-feet of forestry hose, as well as nozzles and appliances. Fire Chief Stephen Fay also reported that MMA Risk Management awarded BFD a $1,657.19 grant for traffic cones and signs.
  • Next meeting: Selectmen meet this Tuesday, April 24 at 5 p.m.
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