PARIS — Within 24 hours of his return to work after burying his wife, Paris Town Manager Phil Tarr says he was paid a visit by Board of Selectmen Chairman Bob Kirchherr and Vice Chairwoman Jean Smart who told him he might be out of a job.
"I was informed by Chairman Kirchherr that, 'The board is inclined to send you a letter informing you that it does not wish to extend your contract beyond the three-year period,'" Tarr said.
"I do not recall a meeting where a vote was taken to even go there," he said.
Tarr said selectmen requested a response from him by May 29, but because of a scheduled vacation, he told them he would speak with the board on June 7, but he isn't sure what question they are asking.
"Mr. Kirchherr and Jean Smart asked me to give them a decision," Tarr said. "Now what am I to give them a decision on?"
Tarr speculated that the board might be maneuvering to force his resignation.
"I'm thinking they would probably rather see me resign," he said.
According to Selectman Ted Kurtz, the board plans to vote during its next meeting on whether to extend Tarr's contract.
"Phil Tarr has been telling residents this week that the board has decided not to extend his contract," Kurtz said. "That's true."
He added, "There have been discussions between the board and Phil, and Phil understands that's the decision, but it will come up for an official public vote at our next meeting."
Kurtz said the only reason he would comment on the matter was that Tarr had made the issue public.
Tarr, who was hired in 2009, is in the third year of his three-year contract. The contract is set to automatically renew in late December for two more years.
According to the contract, the Board of Selectmen must give a six-month written notice of its intention not to renew or to enter into a new employment agreement with the town manager. This means that if selectmen wish to proceed with his termination, they must do so before June 30.
If the board removes Tarr from his position on grounds other than gross misconduct of office, it is required to pay him a lump-sum cash payment equivalent to nine months' wages, which would be about $42,750.
If Tarr resigns, the town is not required to pay severance.
Three years ago, Paris selectmen voted to fire former Town Manager Sharon Jackson, which proved expensive for the town. Jackson filed a suit against the town and in 2010 was awarded $32,502, plus the remainder of her original contract, in a settlement for a total of about $80,000.
Jackson has been working as Fryeburg town manager since 2010.
The automatic two-year renewal is subject to the establishment of annual goals and objectives for the town by the board and the town manager, a requirement that Tarr says the board has not lived up to.
"I have yet to see goals and objectives," he said. "I didn't see them this year; I saw them for the first time in August (2011) that were so roughly put together ... things like 'sell the old fire station."'
Tarr says that although some goals were entered into his evaluation, most of them, such as the Paris road plan, were already in the works, and the objectives "by no means would constitute an entire year's worth of work which an employee could be measured against."
Tarr said he told selectmen that the evaluation process, which he said lasted eight months, was "a farce."
He believes the evaluation was poorly conducted and incomplete.
"I need to find out what my legal rights are," Tarr said. "And that would extend to and include a proper evaluation."
Selectman Ryan Lorrain said other selectmen felt the evaluation process should be revised, and the board discussed the issue, but it was overshadowed by other concerns.
"I know that we talked about possibly re-doing it last year, (but) time really became an issue," Lorrain said. "The evaluation process wasn't a top priority. It really took a back seat."
He said the town is working on coming up with goals for this year. One goal from the previous year was a sidewalk project, but it was integrated into the 2012 road project, he said.
Lorrain said the sidewalk project was the only specific goal he could think of off the top of his head, but he believes having a set of objectives for the town manager is necessary.
"If I was town manager, I'd want to be presented with a list of things to be able to look at for the next evaluation process, down the road," he said. "Those are measurable things you're looking at and saying, 'Well, did this get done? Did this get done?'"
Kurtz said Tarr took exception to the way the evaluation was conducted. Tarr requested a meeting with the board after his initial evaluation was completed earlier in the year, Kurtz said.
During a meeting held in executive session in April, Tarr expressed his concern about the evaluation process, Kurtz said. He said there had been no change in the evaluation since the April meeting.
Kurtz declined to say whether he thought the board had given Tarr clear goals and objectives, but said he believes the Paris board has "done a very poor job on a lot of issues."
Neither Kirchherr nor Smart would confirm that they had talked with Tarr about not extending his contract, but they confirmed that the board planned to put the issue on a future meeting agenda.
State law requires that the removal of a town manager by a board of selectmen be conducted in public. The process includes filing a written preliminary resolution, a public hearing if the town manager requests it and an adoption of the removal by the board.
"I am disappointed they have taken this step," Tarr said. "I've enjoyed working here in Paris. We've really had some huge projects completed. To see this just amazes me."