DRACUT — The Dracut Board of Selectmen has officially approved a job advertisement seeking a new town manager, but the screening committee that will be tasked with winnowing down the applicant pool is yet to be finalized.
At the board’s meeting Tuesday night, the selectmen also approved the hiring of a law firm to review the town’s previous procurement procedures, a decision that comes as the Attorney General’s office is in the midst of reviewing a recent town project.
The town manager position became vacant after former Town Manager Jim Duggan resigned last month after mounting criticism surrounding his handling of town procurement practices. He is also named as a defendant in two pending lawsuits brought forward by town employees alleging bullying and retaliation. Ann Vandal, who formerly served as assistant town manager, was appointed as interim town manager last month.
The search for his replacement is being handled by the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management, the same agency the town used when Duggan was hired six years ago.
The seven-page profile that will be used to advertise the position was created based on conversations each of the selectmen had with Collins Center staff last week, Selectman Chairman Jesse Forcier said at the meeting.
“I’m seeing some of what I put in there and I’m sure all the members probably are seeing something that they contributed to that as well,” Forcier said. “So I think it’s well done; I think it covers everything.”
But Selectman Tami Dristiliaris took issue with the fact that the advertisement does not call for more education than a bachelor’s degree. The description also requires five years of relevant experience as a town or city manager or in another position that oversees the operations of a public entity.
“This is the person that’s going to manage our town that we’re probably going to be paying almost $200,000 to,” she said. “They should have way more than a bachelor’s degree, even with experience.”
Selectman Alison Hughes disagreed and said, “I don’t have a problem with a bachelor’s degree. I would hate to eliminate somebody who’s qualified to do the job just because they didn’t spend an extra two years getting a masters.”
Dristiliaris asked whether Vandal, who had left the meeting by that point, has education beyond a bachelor’s degree. When no one had the answer, she said, “The question I asked nobody answered. I think that’s where the answer lies. … Because Ann will probably be considered as the town manager.”
The statement drew objections from the other selectmen. Ultimately the board voted 4-1 to approve the profile. Dristiliaris voted against the motion.
Dristiliaris also questioned why a discussion about the screening committee that will review the applications was not on the night’s agenda.
Forcier said that after discussions with Collins Center staff, it became clear that the screening committee will not begin its work until January, giving selectmen more time to decide who they’ll appoint. He also noted that before Tuesday’s meeting, the contract with the Collins Center had not yet been officially approved.
Forcier and Vice Chairman Tony Archinski revealed their picks for the screening committee last week, with Forcier planning to appoint School Committee member Joseph Wilkie and Archinski tapping Dracut Planning Board member and Dracut Housing Authority Commissioner Charles Kanavos. Selectman Joseph DiRocco Jr. and Alison Hughes said Tuesday they’re still making their decisions, while Dristiliaris said she didn’t want to publicly announce yet.
Forcier said the selectmen will now have until the board’s next meeting on Dec. 17 to make their appointments to the screening committee. The town manager position will be advertised early next week, he said.