Petition to fire town's manager is discounted

November 11, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

A petition from some Manchester residents to fire the town manager has no legal significance for the man's contract, Town Attorney Charles O. Fisher Jr. said.

And Councilwoman Charlotte Collett said the problems the petition lists are the fault of the divided council, not Town Manager Terry Short.

"I think the Town Council needs to be able to make a decision and tell [the town manager] what to do," Mrs. Collett said.

"The big issue is our Town Council at the time does not know government," she said.

Helen Bankert, a town resident who attends most council meetings and has complained about several issues, read aloud the petition at Tuesday night's council meeting. She said the petition had 301 signatures on the sheets attached to it.

However, Mrs. Bankert would not say who started the petition. She said she was asked by some people to read it at the meeting.

"I signed it, too, but no comment," she said.

Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime said the petition will have only as much significance as council members want to give it. Mrs. Collett said she doesn't give it much.

"Three hundred and one signatures are not very much" in a town of 3,000 residents, she said.

Mayor Warehime said he will call some of those who signed, and believes council members also will do so. He said he will ask those who signed if they understood what the petition means.

Of Mr. Short, he said, "He's done everything I've asked him to do."

The petition, which doesn't refer to Mr. Short by name, claims "Since the appointment of a Town Manager in 1992, there has been a deterioration within the town governmental operation."

At the end, the petition asks "the Mayor and Council to terminate the appointment of the Town Manager and start to address the needs of the town."

It is unclear whether the petition is asking that Mr. Short be replaced or that the town manager position be abolished. Mrs. Bankert declined to elaborate.

"I have no idea," she said.

The petition also says "Council members are divided on most issues and, therefore, no decisions are made."

But Mrs. Collett said the council's division and history of deadlocks and 3-2 votes are not Mr. Short's fault.

"It points the finger right back at the council," Mrs. Collett said.

Mr. Short is the town's first manager. Until then, it had been run by the council, mayor and by a hired clerk-treasurer, Kathryn Riley. After she retired as clerk-treasurer, Mrs. Riley was elected to the council.

The petition claims that employee morale is at an all-time low. Mrs. Collett said she hadn't noticed that it was very low. But she said some town employees might be used to the previous form of government in which they had more independence to make decisions. They may resent having a professional town manager, she said.

Mrs. Collett has been among the council members who support Mr. Short.

"I was one of the old council that chose him," she said. "At the beginning I was not for him, but I find he has more knowledge than I anticipated at the time we chose him."

Mr. Short commented sparely on the petition.

"It's under review by my attorney," Mr. Short said. But he said he had heard Mr. Fisher tell council members after the meeting that his contract is valid.

"Legally, it has no significance," Mr. Fisher said about the petition. Mr. Short's contract with the town goes through June 30, 1996.

"In terms of what the council does, I don't have a vote," said Mr. Short.

"If employee morale is low, it's not based on what I've done," he said.

He said he has worked hard to get raises and benefits for the town employees that are average for towns that size.

"I think they do a good job, and I've worked hard to see they're appropriately compensated," he said.

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