Dracut appoints interim town manager

Ann Vandal to fill former Town Manager Jim Duggan's role temporarily

Jim Duggan walks out of Dracut Town Hall on Wednesday after the embattled town manager abruptly resigned from his position earlier in the day. AARON CURTIS/LOWELL SUN

DRACUT — The Board of Selectmen unanimously appointed Ann Vandal — who previously served as assistant town manager and chief financial officer — to temporarily fill former Town Manager Jim Duggan’s role following his sudden resignation last week.

“Ann is a financial whiz. She’s the perfect person to step into this role,” Jesse Forcier, board chairman, said.

In a special meeting Friday, the board also decided on Duggan’s severance agreement, which includes three months’ pay with health-insurance coverage, according to Vice Chairman Tony Archinski. Duggan’s employment contract was not set to expire until June 2020. His exit agreement states that he will cooperate with the town for a smooth transition, Archinski said.

According to the Dracut Town Charter, a new town manager must be appointed by the Board of Selectmen within 120 days of filling the interim position.

The board has yet to decide on a hiring process, Archinski said. When Duggan was appointed, the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management was tasked with narrowing down a group of applicants to be interviewed by selectmen.

“Again, we have not decided on that being the avenue that we’re going to take,” Archinski said. Forcier expects the board to discuss the next steps at an Oct. 22 meeting.

Vandal stepped in as interim town manager in 2013, between Dennis Piendak and Duggan.

“She’s done the job before. She’s eminently qualified to do the job,” Archinski said.

Duggan resigned Wednesday amid worsening turmoil, including his perceived mishandling of town procurement procedures.

Last month, Attorney General Maura Healey began reviewing a decision by Duggan to select a Hooksett, N.H., firm to construct a security fence around the Dracut Police Department, despite having received a quote from a local firm to build the fence for more than $8,000 less. Hooksett is also the hometown of Dracut Police Chief Peter Bartlett.

Duggan was also criticized in a September protest by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2586. While picketing outside Town Hall, the group expressed concerns for the town’s management of firefighters.

Duggan said in a statement that his resignation was “a mutually agreed upon decision with the Board of Selectmen.”

Archinski said he doesn’t know if Duggan was asked by selectmen to resign.

“He obviously had lost confidence of the majority of the board,” Archinski said.

“All I can say,” Archinski added, “is that I’m disappointed in the way things turned out. I think that Jim Duggan can be very proud of the long list of his accomplishments while he did serve as town manager.

“The economic development in the town … is unmatched by anything that we’ve seen before him,” he said.

“We wish Mr. Duggan the best in his future endeavors, and I think the town is just going to focus on moving forward,” Forcier said. “It’s time to kind of just bring everyone together and have a good feeling in town hall.”