Letter: Our Town Manager is Under Assault

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Hyperbole? No. We have arguably the best Town Manager in the Commonwealth in Bob LeLacheur. The respect he has among his peers is off the charts. He has managed us through some very difficult financial years, first as Assistant Town Manager, Director of Finance, and now as Town Manager. He is apolitical, probably the most important quality in municipal government. That means he leaves his personal political beliefs at home, where they belong when one is in his position. His decisions are always in the best interests of the whole community.

He is prudent and thorough, perfectly demonstrated by the search process laid out for selecting a new police chief. Every “I” is dotted, every “t” crossed. He operates within the limits of his authority spelled out in our Town Charter (something some current Select Board members seem to need a refresher course on).

Ever since Mr. Friedmann and Ms. Alvarado were recruited to run for SB, they have had an agenda to remove Mr. LeLacheur from his position. Apparently, they want someone a little less apolitical in that position. Someone they can bend to their will, perhaps? Because, unlike Mr. LeLacheur, they most certainly do not leave their personal political biases at home. Every decision they make drips with them. They are intent on serving an agenda. One that not everyone in town shares a belief in. One could argue that it is a national agenda, born in the last election. Regardless of where it sprung from, it is doing nothing but tearing the community apart.

They voted to not approve Mr. LeLacheur’s contract renewal, the first indicator of this agenda. Thankfully, the composition of the Board at the time made their votes irrelevant, and Mr. LeLacheur’s contract was renewed. (It also led to the challenge and eventual defeat of a Board member who dared buck his otherwise like-minded friends and voted to renew. How dare he!) They challenged the process used to hire a new Health Administrator. They blame him for any lack of communication.

Now they challenge the selection process for a new police chief that they agreed to, claiming there has been no public input from the community. First off, the Charter gives no right to the community to offer input, it is the Town Manager’s appointment alone, and why he gets paid the big bucks. Mr. LeLacheur did not have to form a Selection Committee, but because he is great at his job, he did. Mr. LeLacheur didn’t have to include Board members on that Selection Committee, but he did. Again because he is great at his job, and he realized this was a way to have citizen representation on the Selection Committee. As a member of the Selection Committee and Chair of the Select Board, Ms. Alvarado could’ve scheduled as many public comment meetings or public opinion surveys as to what the community desired in a new police chief as her heart desired any time after the previous chief announced his resignation. She, and she alone, controls the Board’s agenda. The fact that she chose not to raises the question of why?

Could it be this: They probably have the votes to remove Mr. LeLacheur, given the current makeup of the Board. But it would be extremely risky to fire Mr. LeLacheur (or not renew his contract) politically. He is highly regarded professionally and in the community. It seems they have chosen to make him suffer death by a thousand cuts in the hope he will retire or quit in frustration. That is why they are challenging him on the process he uses in hiring. This provides them cover and gives them time. “We’re not challenging the selection. We’re challenging the process by which the selection was made. We need to get public feedback. We need more information.” This became blatantly obvious when during the last Board meeting, Ms. Alvarado kept deflecting Mr. Halsey’s contention that this delay in choosing a chief rested solely on her shoulders as Chair by stating, “How we got here doesn’t matter. What matters is how we proceed now that we’re here.” 

Mr. Halsey attempted for weeks to get this appointment on the Board’s agenda. Ms. Alvarado declined to do so. This delay has rightly disturbed the men and women on RPD. They want a chief. They deserve a chief. They have waited long enough. To be disparaged by Mr. Friedman in the manner he did is deplorable. That the Chair, Ms. Alvarado, did not immediately chastise him for his comment, should not be overlooked either, for that is tacit approval of the comment, regardless of what statement was delivered the following day.

As Chair, both Mr. Friedmann and Ms. Alvarado have made a concerted effort to challenge every major decision Mr. LeLacheur has made. Every. Single. One. Often sinking to astounding levels to do so. The fact that certain members of this current Board thwart him at every turn speaks to their agenda, not his. This cannot be allowed to continue.

The contrast between this Board and the one constituted before Mr. Friedmann and Ms. Alvarado were elected couldn’t be more stark. From a Progressive Democrat on the left to the Moderates in the middle to the Conservative Republican on the right, all put politics aside to work with Bob to ensure every decision, every action, was made in the entire community’s interest.

We now have a Board of Ideologues with an agenda. The first step to getting back to an apolitical Board, one that serves the whole Town and not a select few, is to vote for Carlo Bacci and write in John Halsey Sr. on March 3rd. Every vote for Mr. Friedmann is one vote closer to losing the best Town Manager in the Commonwealth. If that happens, Reading will be the poorer for it.

Karl Weld
Highland Street

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