PARIS — In a decision that drew shouts of protest from the audience, the Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 on Monday to terminate its contract with Town Manager Sharon Jackson.

Jackson was hired by the town in December 2004.

Selectman David Ivey, who was elected chairman of the board after the decision in another 3-2 vote, had requested that the board go into executive session to review Jackson\’s contract. The hearing instead took place before a standing-room-only crowd after Jackson presented the board with a written statement asking that the discussion be public, a request allowed under Maine law.

Selectman Glen Young made the motion to terminate Jackson\’s employment without cause; the motion was seconded by Ivey.
“I\’ve been here two years, and I think we\’ve got to go in a different direction,” Young said.

Raymond Glover, presiding chairman at Monday\’s meeting, and Selectman Lloyd “Skip” Herrick voted against firing Jackson. Herrick said such an action would incur costs for compensating Jackson and hiring a new town manager.

Under the contract, the town must pay Jackson her salary and benefits for a number of months equal to the number of years of service to the town, up to six months from the date of termination. Jackson said the town would be obligated to pay her about $40,000.

“I can\’t for the life of me understand why anyone on this board would want to take taxpayers\’ money to do that,” Herrick said.

Glover said the board had determined earlier this year that Jackson had done an “exceptional” job at her annual review.

“I think it\’s a sad day for this town to take that kind of action,” he said.
Jackson said she had worked to fix financial difficulties in the town and had treated all residents equitably.

“I have performed every duty expected of me under the town manager\’s job description, and I think I have done it well,” Jackson said.

She challenged Ivey and Selectman Troy Ripley, who was attending his first meeting after being elected earlier this month, to give their reasons for supporting the action. She said Ivey had supported her in the past and had given a positive rating at her most recent annual review.

Ripley said that people he had talked to while campaigning had said they wanted the political disagreements in the town to calm down.
“The town has been in turmoil for about six years,” he said.

“I just don\’t think this town is moving in the right direction, and I\’m sick of it,” Ivey said. “I\’ve been on this board for two years, and it\’s been hell. And there\’s a common denominator.”

Herrick argued that the decision to fire Jackson was due to political reasons.

“If you\’re going to make change, make it for the right reason,” Herrick said. “People ought to be outraged in this town. I\’m sorry, but where you\’re going is taking this town in the wrong direction.”

Several members of the audience stood up as a show of support for Jackson and applauded Herrick after his argument. After the vote was taken to fire Jackson, some members of the audience hurled criticism at the selectmen.

“You think you\’ve seen dissent, Mr. Ivey?” said Kathy Richardson. “You have seen nothing yet.”

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” another woman shouted.

According to her employment contract, Jackson was scheduled to begin serving a five-year term as town manager on July 1. She was to receive a salary increase from $1,158 per week to $1,233 per week beginning July 1, with an additional raise to $1,308 per week in July 2010.

Prior to becoming town manager in Paris, Jackson served as a finance clerk in the town of Oxford for eight years. While there, she also served as an interim town manager on two occasions. In September 2004, the Oxford selectmen decided to hire Michael Chammings as town manager over Jackson.

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