Paris board may fire town manager

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."

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Comments

Kim Waite's picture

I was shocked to read

the front page of the Advertiser Democrat this week that Phil Tarr had been told his contract won't be renewed, but then again, I really wasn't. I personally had no idea his wife had died, but I did know she had been sick. If true (it's only a rumor at this point) I agree with those who have written the papers about this that it was disgusting Kirchherr and Smart approached Tarr at the funeral of his wife. I can't see them doing this, but if they did, they need to apologize to Tarr first chance they get.

I am inclined to believe that Smart & Kirchherr mentioned to Tarr in passing that his contract will not be renewed and it's Tarr and his cohorts who have spun what was said into an "immediate resignation/firing" when that is not what was intended. Hey, if it will make more money for Tarr, he's all for the spinning to his advantage!

Phil is no stranger to town politics. He has a very nice soft voice and comes across like he knows what he's talking about, but after it's all said and done, we find out rather quickly he doesn't or we've been deceived in some way.

Phil Tarr has a very unique way at town meeting to express the need to purchase new machinery for one of the town's departments. We never hear, "It would be cheaper just to fix it", because what we do hear almost always is (the following is an exaggeration, but pretty darn close), "The part for this piece of machinery can only be done by one mechanic in the country and the part will take 6 months to get, so the only real answer is to spend $125,000 for a brand new one". He does this sort of thing all the time and it's costing the town of Paris money.

Phil Tarr doesn't live in Paris, so what does he care if taxes go up?

Phil Tarr has a history of spending money in other town's he's managed...leaving some towns high and dry. Here in Paris, he felt the need to spend money on changing the color of the town office (he insists it's the same color, but yet, those of us who pay attention and WHO LIVE IN THE TOWN----know darn well the color scheme before the new paint was put on was a reddish maroon trim with light tan/cream outer walls), he put a new town office sign up that matches the color of the building, he has no problem (along with Ted Kurtz who has a Yale law degree) spending money on attorneys (thanks to Tarr and Kurtz, $15,000 has been spent so far trying to get to the bottom of the Gravel Pitt Road debacle, when really, this is a federal issue and shouldn't be handled by the town at all!) to answer questions that many in attendance at the Select meetings already know, he has no problem pushing to put a police car in the budget before it's voted on at town meeting, and when I bring a Freedom of Information Request concerning a computer that was purchased for the town office, I don't get all the information requested (and the information I was given doesn't give with the computer tech's information that was given to me!).

We have a board and a town manager who have no problem taking all the money our town has in reserve and spending it. Come to think of it, if Tarr goes I think Kurtz should also go. These two spin everything that is said at town meeting and between the two of them they are costing our town money. They seem to enjoy it. Funny how Kurtz is acting like he's the one that is disgusted! Seriously, I am so disgusted at town meeting that I can't even listen to Kurtz speak for 45 seconds because he's so irritating!

Janet Jamison's picture

Yes, "they" did fire Sharon Jackson several years ago...

However, it was a different Board of Selectmen with different motives. Mr. Tarr was the handpicked choice of the Selectmen who fired Mrs. Jackson. She was very honest and competent. After the Selectmen ran her out of town, the townspeople got fired up at the injustice and after a few months recalled a couple of truly nasty selectmen, David Ivey and Troy Ripley, who had badly misjudged the amount of support for their actions. The third member of the Evil Troika, Glen Young, just quit coming to meetings cause his buddies were recalled and there was no one left to tell him how to vote...So now Paris has been through several years of Mr. Tarr's less than competent "leadership" and the Selectmen on board at this time have figured out the Town is wasting a lot of time and energy on Mr.Tarr. The Evil Troika helped Mr. Tarr put together an employment contract most beneficial to Tarr and a real detriment to the Town, so to release Tarr from the contract, Selectmen must give Tarr 6 months notice (wonder how much mayhem or computer crashes will happen in that timeframe?) or the contract rolls over for another 3 years. Mr. Tarr is the one who has decided to go public with this and to try and garner support from his "special" friends...people who apparently never seen him in action and neither live nor pay taxes in Paris.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

They did a similar thing to

They did a similar thing to Sharon Jackson, the previous town manager. She, also, was quite competent and is reportedly doing quite well as Town Manager in Fryeburg. One has to ask; what's going on with the Board of Selectmen in Paris?

Kim Waite's picture

It was

a sad day when Sharon was pushed out! She truly was a fantastic town manager.

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