Still no County Manager selected in Dorchester

MD-3xsa Mentoring month proclamation

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper County Proclamation supports Mentoring Month. County Council issued a proclamation at their January 20 meeting honoring Mentoring Month, to be celebrated in January 2015. “Every day mentors play a vital role,” Councilman Tom Bradshaw declared, “in this national mission by helping to broaden the horizons of our daughters and sons. This month is to celebrate these individuals who make it their cause to bring out the best in our young people, and we salute their spirit and their service.” Accepting the proclamation were Clint and Mary Falduto and Samantha Hill, Program Specialist for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake.

CAMBRIDGE — The bi-monthly County Council meeting seems to be full of surprises these days, and this past Tuesday night was no exception. At the end of the meeting the announcement was made by Council President Travers that a motion was made in executive session earlier to advertise again for the City Manager position and re-open the application process. In the meantime, Jay Newcomb would be relieved in his position as acting County Manager and the acting County Manager position would be assumed by Jeremy Goldman, current Emergency Services Director.

In due time, Commissioner Travers stated, arrangements would be made to compensate Jay Newcomb for his work as acting County Manager since Dec. 2, when Don Satterfield was sworn in to the Council and Mr. Newcomb, who was defeated by Mr. Satterfield for his County Council seat by 28 votes, stepped down.

The motion was made in executive session, but the vote had to be taken and recorded in open session, and in the following vote Commissioners Bradshaw, Travers and Satterfield voted “aye” while Commissioners Price and Nichols dissented.

A public comment period followed in which the overwhelming opinion was in defense of Jay Newcomb and his good work record as acting County Manager. A lot of attention was paid to the fact that, by volunteering to accept the County Manager duties while Jane Baynard was sick, Mr. Newcomb saved the county at least $90,000 or more in salaries. It was stated that he knew the county, knew the Council and its rules, and it would be foolish to replace him in the County Manager position with someone new.

Also, George Ames asked the question, “You have an interim (County Manager) right now. Why do you want to replace him with another interim?”

Manager’s comments session followed, with each Councilman addressing the subject.

“Sometimes people are afraid of changes,” Councilman Bradshaw stated, “but we need to make some changes. And I’m not saying anything against Mr. Newcomb, he’s been a lifelong friend, but we need to make some sweeping changes around here, and I’m going to make some recommendations for sweeping changes to bring us up into the 21st century. That’s all I have to say.”

Councilman Price said, “Because of Mr. Newcomb’s previous experience, I thought this would be a difficult time to make a change, and I’m not having a problem with the way things are. I just think we should stay where we are for right now, and see how it works out. Mr. Newcomb, thank you for your service, I commend you for the service that you did.”

“I voted against Mr. Newcomb staying, and my reason is actually pretty simple,” said Councilman Satterfield. “While Mr. Newcomb was sitting in that chair he did not have an opportunity to apply to the process the county used to interview. We’ll advertise, we’ll accept applications, we will review those applications, and make the best selection that we can, and as a sitting County Council member he’s not eligible to apply. On Dec. 2, literally by a slim margin I was able to take his chair, and I’ve worked hard to fill the seat of those who have served before me. The bottom line is, you have someone here fully capable in every respect, sitting in that chair to do that job. But there is a process. We voted tonight to reopen the application process. Now, we will review those applications and we will make a decision based on what the county has done for years. At this point there are opportunities to do good things, the right way, and not subject to certain members of the audience, and of the county, in opposition to or in favor of. At the end of the day it’s not about Mr. Newcomb, he’s clearly done the job, there’s no discussion there. It’s about the process that is legal and mindful, of getting from where we are today to where we should be in the future. There are opportunities here, and I would ask all of you here to wait and see what happens.”

Councilman Nichols channeled his inner Mohammed Ali when he stated, “Big Ben — a clock, Tom Bradley — a jock, and that vote you just heard — a crock! Ms. Baynard started out as acting County Manager, don’t let anyone tell you any different because that would be a damn lie. Tom Flowers came here one night in executive session, he said, ‘Gentlemen, she’s done a good job, she’s been County Manager for six months, she’s done a good job.’ We voted (and made her County Manager).”
“We have councilmembers now, going to department heads and telling them what to do. That is illegal according to this charter. If you want something, if you’re a department head, you go to the County Manager. This council has no right to go to a department head and tell them what to do. If this is a game this board wants to play, a power trip, you don’t want to do it. Read the charter and see what you can do and what you can’t do. The charter was written to stop this crap, and we’re back into this crap again. Read the charter. We approved the charter, we abide by the charter. The honeymoon is over.”

Privately, Councilman Nichols calls the actions of the Council since Dec. 2 a “Hostile takeover. It’s a power grab by a few on the Council to get their way. They’re doing things that they’re not supposed to be doing. I say to them, ‘read the charter.’ You need a discussion to pick a person (to act as County Manager). I was never contacted on this, Mr. Price was never contacted. They’re running around, doing things they’re not supposed to be doing.”

Council President Travers finished up with the statement, “I will tell you that this is probably one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever made . . . there’s part of the public out there who are very passionate for Jay Newcomb. There’s a part of the public out there who are very passionately against Mr. Newcomb. We voted to move forward and open up the applications process . . . we will have to sit down, see those applications, and see who we pick. We’re never going to find another Jane Baynard.

“Even before the election, we should have really made an effort (to finish picking a County Manager). We did — we went through the applications, we pared them down, we had meetings with applicants. We made a very good effort at that time at getting it done.”

Privately Councilman Travers admitted that their intention was to always save the job for Jane, if there was a chance she would come back. Upon Ms. Baynard’s resignation, the council stepped up efforts, per the statement in the last paragraph, but when Jane died it took the wind out of everyone’s sails. Then there was the election, and the current council has not addressed the County Manager issue since the election and swearing in of the new Council member.

“Jane was a very special person,” Commissioner Travers told us privately. “Maybe when we were searching earlier we were trying to find another very, very special person to do the job. And frankly, we’re not going to find one. We’re going to have to go through the process and simply find someone who can do the job.”

The surprise of the evening came right before adjournment, when acting County Manager Jay Newcomb pointed out that in order for new acting County Manager Jeremy Goldman to be able to sign checks, he had to be bonded — a process that can take a week — and in the meantime county employees and county bills will go unpaid with no one authorized to sign checks. Mr. Newcomb helped to explain the steps necessary for Mr. Goldman to follow, and the evening ended with Council President Travers making a motion to extend Mr. Newcomb’s acting County manager position until Jan. 23, to ensure county employees would be paid. The motion passed with three votes, Price and Nichols dissenting.

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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