Selectman Nick Hammond was criticized with an array of profane words in the parking lot of the Auburn Town Hall following the Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday evening.
Residents were distressed to learn that after an extensive interview and evaluation process, selectmen concluded they will re-advertise for the town manager position.
The position became available after a charter change in November of 2009. The change allows the town manager to become executive of the town organization, with the Board of Selectmen as the remaining appointing authority. Former Town Administrator Charles T. O'Connor served as interim town manager throughout the hiring process and was a candidate to fill the position, along with finalists Brian M. Palaia and J. Jefferey Ritter.
"This is the hardest decision I have ever had to make and I do not take it lightly," Hammond said. "We should open this, back up and start over, that's my feeling." He later referred to O'Connor as a "mentor" but concluded, "I have to separate my emotions. It really hurts inside but this was a business decision."
According to Selectman Doreen Goodrich, the search to fill the town manager position was a "long, careful, deliberate process" including public questioning, extensive interviews, visits with department heads and site visitations to each of the final three candidates.
"This is a serious process we have been through," Goodrich said. A main concern for Goodrich is that the town will lose credibility as a result of the decision to re-advertise the position and many of the previous 50 applicants will not reapply.
Selectmen Robert Simonian and Timothy Hicks share similar concerns with Hammond as they also voted in favor to re-advertise the position.
"I cannot support any of the current candidates," Simonian said. He made this decision earlier on Thursday afternoon. "I can't say it was one specific thing that led me to this decision. I look at the presentation of how a person comes across, I want someone who will stand up and scream."
Hicks said although Ritter interviewed well and had a good sense of what the community would need he did not feel he was the best suited for the role as town manager. In regards to O'Connor as interim town manager, Hicks said, "If I was 100 percent comfortable with Mr. O'Connor, I would not have wasted the other candidates' time."
Selectman Robert Grossman was opposed to the final decision to restart the hiring process. "I would feel much safer if we had someone that knows the town and operations," referring to O"Connor as a respectable candidate.
Auburn Police Sgt. Jeffrey Lourie offered praise and support for O"Connor.
"We have come through a very difficult time, but we have a strong team and O'Connor is leading that team." Lourie said in regards to the final outcome, "Whoever is elected, I will give my support to the first town manager of Auburn."
Hammond said, "I did not expect this, I thought I would be a minority."
The selectmen will reconvene to discuss the issue on Monday, July 26 at 7 p.m.