DRACUT -- Andover's Assistant Town Manager Steven Bucuzzo was not named by selectmen as Dracut's new town manager last night.
But did a slip of the tongue by Selectman Joe DiRocco unveil Bucuzzo as the board's preferred successor to 26-year Town Manager Dennis Piendak when he retires in November?
Citing a fear of a violating the Open Meeting Law based on how the meeting agenda was worded, neither did selectmen name any of the other three finalists -- Seekonk Town Manager Pam Nolan, Georgetown Town Administrator Mike Farrell or former Rehoboth Town Manager David Marciello -- before voting unanimously, 5-0, to postpone their discussion and vote on a top choice until next Tuesday's meeting.
As posted publicly by the Board of Selectmen's office at Town Hall and online Town Calendar last week, Tuesday night's agenda read, "Discuss Town Manager finalists and discuss possible site visits to candidates' current communities."
After discussion opened with Selectmen DiRocco, John Zimini, Tony Archinski and Bob Cox indicating to Chairwoman Cathy Richardson that they all had a clear-cut top choice in mind, Zimini asked for legal advice from Town Counsel Jim Hall as to whether the board would be violating the Open Meeting Law by proceeding to a final vote that was not mentioned as a possibility on the agenda.
"This agenda was worded that we were only going to discuss the finalists and possible site visits.
Postponing the vote for a week negated the possibility that someone who may not like the chosen town manager, for whatever reason, could legally challenge the hiring in court, Hall said.
"If, six months from now, someone brought a lawsuit and said we violated the Open Meeting Law, the contract with the new town manager would be null and void; it could just be a messy situation," said Hall. "The board thought it best to wait one more week to inform the public about exactly what is going to happen at their next meeting."
None of the board members took up the option, which was permitted by the agenda, to openly discuss either their personal rankings of the four town-manager finalists, or to name their favorite candidate. DiRocco provided the strongest hint as to the identity of his top pick, however.
"As for me, I made calls to the town for the (finalist) who I thought topped everyone. So I don't need to go down there," said DiRocco.
Waiting a week was not a bad idea, "in case someone wants to take a ride down to Andover," DiRocco said moments later, referring to the workplace of Bucuzzo, and apparently revealing his first choice.
"Or a ride to Georgetown, Seekonk or wherever," he added, in an apparent belated attempt to keep with the board's stated intention not to name, or rank, the job candidates publicly.
In response to questions posed by Richardson, selectmen determined no second round of finalist interviews nor site visits are necessary in advance of their final vote next week.
"I've been giving this a lot of thought, made many phone calls, done a lot of research and come to conclusion that one person rises above them all," Zimini said. "I don't want to get into what's good and bad about all the candidates. Everyone at this table has weaknesses, too. We should just vote on who's the best person going forward."
The board has "done a great job" to date in searching out the next town manager, Zimini added. "So let's not rush it," he said.
The public discussion ended with the board voting 5-0 to enter executive session to determine the specific contract terms they will offer the new town manager, including salary.
The annual salary for the position had been advertised in the area of $130,000.
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