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The Select Board’s recent evaluation of the Town Manager indicates several areas that were rated as below standard. This Tuesday, the Select Board will be reviewing the Town Manager’s contract.
It is my concern and it should be a concern of not only the Select Board but also of the taxpayers and residents of the Town of Reading that the Town Manager is not using best practices and standards for a municipal manager for a municipality of our size. The failure of the Town Manager to remain up to date with current standards and practices to our financial determent is disconcerting, however, the absolute refusal to consider what is now standard practice in other municipalities is more than disconcerting.
I refer to the use of unpaid interns. It has been standard practice to use unpaid college and graduate school interns in cities and towns in the Commonwealth for several years now. This has been seen as a win-win. Towns and cities can tap into the pool of potential employees, build morale among their full-time staff, and benefit from brand recognition and status.
The Town Manager has apparently no interest in updating the Town’s policy and practices in this area. He has refused to accept or consider legal opinion on the use of unpaid interns from Cheryl Sbarro, Director of Policy and Law MAHB, Cynthia Mark, Chief, Fair Labor Division Office of the AG, Ricardo Guillaume , Internship Coordinator Gov. Baker’s office, or Margaret Cooke, General Counsel Commonwealth Department of Public Health. Numerous municipalities now take advantage of the benefits of unpaid internships. The Town of Wellesley recently hired an individual for their health department who was an unpaid intern to the Wellesley Health Department two or three years ago. This is noteworthy as the town manager has stated his refusal is based on “liability issues with unpaid interns”. This is an old and outdated position.
Managing a municipal budget is challenging; managing a municipality such as Reading requires the Town Manager remain up to date with current municipal best practices and standards.
The Town Manager’s contract should not be for more than one year, during which time the Town Manager should consider ways to improve and update his performance. The Select Board and the Town residents then can become confident that the Town Manager is capable, competent and willing to utilize new best practice standards for our Town.