MECHANIC FALLS — Following two hours of discussion Monday, the town council postponed a decision adjusting Town Manager Zakk Maher’s contract.

Zakk Maher Submitted photo

Maher and the town had agreed to a four-year contract when he was hired in August 2018. The town charter, however, says the length of the contract can only be for three years.

Maher said any attempt to change the four-year length of the original contract would result in him walking away, claiming the terms of the contract were violated.

“That’s what I signed in good faith,” Maher said. “When I signed that contract. I left a fantastic job to come here and do this. It hasn’t been the best ride yet, but I still intend to hold the intent of the contract that I signed as a valid contract.

“My intention is to stay here and complete the projects I’m working on before I move on,” he added.

Maher and the town council have had a rocky relationship, culminating in the council firing Mahar in June 2019.

The council rescinded their action two months later. Mahar’s attorney said the council “had no basis to terminate him in the first place.”

Three new members have joined the council since then with only Kieth Bennett and John Emery remaining.

The three remaining members, Tarsha Downing, Rose Aikman and Raymond Lavoie were troubled that the four-year contract violated the charter. One member said “the charter is like the bible.”

On Monday, the town council was scheduled to discuss the matter with an attorney and enter into labor negotiations in executive sessions, but Maher waived his right to privacy so that the matter could be discussed in open session.

It was suggested that the easiest solution would be to dissolve the existing contract and write a new two-year deal that would run through June 30, 2022, which was the end date of the current four-year deal. Maher appeared to be in agreement with that change.

“I’d like to see us do something in good faith,” Emery said.

Aikman did not like that proposal, wanting the original contract to follow the charter’s three-year limit and end in 2021.

“That is the contract this body signed,” Maher said. “The individual membership has changed, but that’s the contract this body signed. It is the contract that I have signed. I understand that the charter may say something else, but it also looks like the council in certain instances is picking and choosing how they want to follow the charter, because they have not always followed the charter. They’ve done poorly as a body to follow it — and not always to their fault —  but past staff as well leading them astray, allowing email and telephone voting. You can’t do that.”

After the board voted 2-3 against Emery’s motion for a two-year contract, Lavoie recommended that the council send the options to town attorney Jack Conway for him to write up and give to the board at their September meeting. It would also allow members time to fill out evaluation forms for the town manager.

Downing, who has been on the council for eight months and admitted that she has never met one-on-one with Maher, said she had trouble filling out her evaluation form, saying, “I don’t know what Zakk does.”

Other councilors praised Maher for his physical management of looking for ways to save the town money, his organization skills and supervision, and providing councilors with financial updates.

It was the area of working with the town council that needed improvement, they said.


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