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Uncertain future for Thomaston Personnel Committee

By Christine Simmonds | Oct 06, 2020
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Thomaston municipal building

Thomaston — The Thomaston Personnel Committee and the Select Board will work together to define and discuss the hiring process and clarify the role of the Personnel Committee, moving forward.

The two groups met at a workshop Sept. 28 to discuss the matter.

At the Select Board meeting Sept. 14, a member of the Personnel Committee objected to Town Manager Kara George interviewing job candidates without the committee’s input.

The Personnel Committee was established in 1994 by town ordinance.

According to the ordinance, the committee will review applications for full-time and part-time jobs in the town as requested by the town manager.

According to George, the committee is advisory in nature, and not needed for every job vacancy in the town.

George also said state law under the Town Manager Plan gives her hiring and firing power, though the Select Board must vote in new employees.

The Personnel Committee and the board will continue to work together to decide the future of the committee.

George said this may result in an amendment to the 1994 ordinance that started the committee, a full repeal of the ordinance or the creation of a policy instead. If the ordinance is repealed, it must be voted on during a Town Meeting. The Town Meeting was held Sept. 15.

After the workshop, George and town employee Jodell Benson searched through old town records to find out when the Town Manager Plan was adopted. They discovered a hand-written warrant article from 1950.

The document outlined that voters approved the Town Manager Plan by secret ballot vote of “171 for and 147 against.”

The first Town Manager for Thomaston was hired in March 1950.

According to the warrant article, eight members of the Budget Committee and the Planning Committee, along with three Selectmen, hired Harold Putnam of Reading, Mass., as the first Town Manager.

Putnam’s salary was set at $3,800 annually, plus $200 for expenses. He began his duties in 1950.

George said she did not know why a Personnel Committee was created under the previous town manager, but that a town ordinance should not contradict state law. “The Town Manager Plan is in the Maine Revised Statutes,” she said.

Since being hired as the full-time town manager, George has interviewed and recommended some town employees, such as the new Town Clerk Melissa Stevens. These positions have been voted on and approved by the Select Board.

George added that she would like to continue having Thomaston citizens involved in the hiring decisions for some town positions. “I would really like that as a role,” she said.

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