PARIS — Following sharp criticism from angry residents Monday over its decision to fire the town manager without cause last month, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to hire an interim replacement.
Michael Thorne, who served as the Harrison town manager for 21 years and the Raymond manager for two years, will take the position immediately. He will work a 25-hour week and be paid $600 a week.
Thorne replaces Town Clerk Anne Pastore, who declined appointment as interim town manager after the board voted 3-2 on June 22 to terminate the town's contract with Sharon Jackson.
Monday's meeting was the first opportunity for residents to publicly address selectmen on the issue, and several people expressed anger or dismay over the decision.
Forrie Everett, chairman of the town's Budget Committee, said the termination would lead to extra costs for hiring an interim town manager and paying town employees for working extra hours to cover Jackson's duties. Everett questioned where the money would come from, as the year's budget has already been established.
"I don't know if they're going to do like the past administration did and start robbing from Peter to pay Paul, or you're going to do what's supposed to be done and have a town meeting to approve these monies that are being foolishly spent," Everett said.
Ivey said the board had not yet discussed where additional money would come from.
"You haven't gave that a thought, have you?" asked Everett.
Ivey replied that he had not responded in such a way, and told Everett that his time to speak was over. When Everett tried to continue, Ivey said he would have Everett removed, prompting shouts of protest from the audience.
"I'm telling you, you're a snake in the grass," Everett said. "I have no faith; I have nothing in you. And I'll do whatever the town asks me to do to get you three out of here."
Ivey, along with selectmen Troy Ripley and Glen Young, voted in favor of firing Jackson. Selectmen Raymond Glover and Lloyd "Skip" Herrick voted against the termination.
Carmen Rubonas, a Paris landowner and taxpayer, asked the board to provide in writing the reason for its decision. She said Jackson had received favorable performance reviews prior to the decision.
"I am here tonight because I question the motive and intent of the majority of this board that's sitting at this table," Rubonas said.
Other residents urged the board to rehire Jackson.
"The most expedient, quickest, least expensive, most cost-effective way to do it is for you to vote to undo the mistake you've made," said Al Bancroft, founder of Bancroft Contracting.
Resident Greg Harris questioned allegations that Jackson's predecessor, Steve McAllister, left the town in a poor financial state when he departed. In defending her record to the board before her termination, Jackson said she had helped bring the town out of financial difficulties.
"I'm wondering if there are any facts that will support the unfavorable allegations, or is it just the way Sharon Jackson told the story when she wanted to make changes to her own way of doing things," Harris said.
The board unanimously accepted Pastore's resignation as interim town manager after a half-hour executive session, and unanimously approved Thorne's appointment after another half-hour executive session.
However, Herrick questioned how Thorne had been selected.
Ivey said Thorne had approached the town after reading about the vacancy. Herrick protested that neither he nor Glover had been told about Thorne's interest in the position.
"It's quite evident we have a three-man board operation here," Herrick said.
Young said he was also unaware that Thorne had approached the town.
Jackson was hired by the town in December 2004. She previously served as finance clerk for the town of Oxford for eight years, as well as interim town manager there on two occasions. In September 2004, she was considered for the Oxford town manager position but was not hired.
Under her contract with Paris selectmen, the board had the right to terminate Jackson without cause, but would have to pay her salary and benefits for a period equal to one month for each consecutive year of service. Jackson told selectmen last month that the town would be required to pay her $40,000.