Mechanic Falls Town Manager Zakk Maher sits in his office in 2019. Maher has submitted his resignation, dated April 1,  to the Town Council, citing lack of cooperation and communication with the council. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal 2019 file photo

MECHANIC FALLS — Citing a broken working relationship with the Town Council, Zakk Maher is resigning as town manager.

“This environment, where councilors refuse to communicate with me and have repeatedly sought to shorten or eliminate my contract, is untenable and so unpleasant that I have no other option but to seek alternative employment,” Maher wrote in his letter of resignation dated April 1.

The council will act on the resignation at their next meeting Monday.

Hired in 2018, the Poland resident who is in his 30s has had a rocky relationship with the council, culminating in the council firing him in June 2019, saying he was “not a good fit.” Under the threat of a lawsuit, the council rescinded its action two months later. Maher also threatened to resign last year when the council considered changing the length of his contract from four years to three.

While that was finally resolved through compromise, the scars remained.

“It has been made abundantly clear during recent meetings that multiple councilors cannot, or will not work with me,” Mahar wrote. “This has not created for me, or the town, the most productive work arrangement to say the least. Similarly, the council has made it certain they will not entertain another employment contract when the current one expires in 2022.”

Maher, who did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday, said in his resignation letter that he has accepted another job offer, but did not say where.

“Out of a need for economic and personal security and predictability for my family in these uncertain times, I have recently secured other employment,” Maher wrote. “This makes my departure more abrupt than I would have liked, but a job in the hand is worth more than this current situation, where the present relationship is construed to assure my failure. I am therefore compelled to tender my resignation.”

Maher’s problems with the council began 10 months into his four-year tenure when he was fired in June 2019, but was reinstated in August after his lawyer filed suit in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn claiming the council acted in violation of state statutes and the town charter.

The decision to rescind the vote to terminate Maher was greeted with applause by more than 100 residents in attendance at that meeting.

Last year, the council discovered that the four-year contract Maher signed in 2018 violated the Town Charter, which stipulated that contracts could be no longer than three years. Maher said he signed the contract in good faith and expected the board to honor that contract, but Councilors Tarsha Downing, Rose Aikman and Raymond Lavoie, who were not involved in the earlier action, were troubled by the charter violation, which was no fault of Maher.

The town manager threatened to resign for breach of contract if the council attempted to change its length.

After months, a compromise was reached in September when the council tore up the old contract and issued a new two-year deal that kept the town’s four-year commitment to Maher through 2022. That passed by a 3-2 vote with Downing and Aikman opposing the move.

The effective date of the resignation is not stated in the letter. He writes that the “council will have the opportunity to weigh in on how long and in what capacity they would wish me to work out my notice.”

The letter ends with advice for his eventual replacement. Most important, he said is to trust the staff. “They are the most genuine, honest and capable team I have ever had the privilege of working with. Your primary responsibility is to empower them and advocate for their success.”

He added that a sense of humor and a “healthy level of objective skepticism will be essential.”

“Remember the words of Utah Phillips: the past didn’t go anywhere,” Maher wrote. “Harping on it is a sunk-cost fallacy which will cost you many valuable hours. You can and should fully expect to be able to move forward in a proper and prudent manner, precedent and politics be damned.”

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