LtE: Writer Williams Does Not Understand SB Matter

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Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to a disparaging 3/3/22 LtE, “Select Board Yet Again Failed to Do Their Diligence,” from Alicia Williams.  It appears that the letter writer did not understand the discussion on termination pay that occurred at the last Select Board meeting.

Ms. Williams missed the point that the Select Board discussion was about a clause in the TOWN CHARTER  and not in the recently resigned Town Manager’s CONTRACT.  She writes of “a similar termination clause as our late Town Manager” and refers to the CONTRACTS of the Town Managers of Concord and Townsend as comparable examples.  However, no such clause exists in the previous Town Manager’s contract.  Her examples are irrelevant to the matter.  The discussion centered on whether to pay the previous Town Manager termination pay IN ADDITION TO the benefits that were negotiated and inked into his last contract.  Select Board Chair Karen Herrick did her due diligence, contrary to what Ms. Williams states.

Our first Town Manager, Peter Hechenbleikner, received 3 months severance pay upon his retirement, as negotiated and stipulated IN HIS CONTRACT, for his 30 years of service, and in recognition, according to Select Board members at the time, for his being underpaid for many of those years.  When he retired, he received the benefits in his contract, and nothing more.  The Select Board could have awarded him additional pay equivalent to 9 months salary by the same provision used to award the recently retired Town Manager severance pay in addition to his contractual benefits.  They did not do that.  Town Manager PH received benefits only negotiated in his contract.

Under discussion at the Select Board meeting was the last of paragraph of section 5.1 of the TOWN CHARTER, which is about the ability of the Select Board to pay an outgoing Town Manager termination pay.  Ms. Williams wrote in her LtE, “Ms. Herrick your question to town counsel on the word “termination” were [sic] coy.  You were clearly playing (and failing) at semantics.”  Ms. Williams, words have meanings, and context matters.  I believe Ms. Herrick was asking for background information and trying to understand the parameters of this section of the Town Charter. Until the last Charter change in 2015, when this paragraph was moved, the termination pay clause was in section 5.5d of the Charter, under Removal of Town Manager.  The word “severance” has also been removed, and now the paragraph refers only to termination pay.  Personally, I find the paragraph ambiguous, and do hope that it is looked at during the next Charter review.  I fail to see how Select Board Chair Herrick asking Town Counsel for clarification or explanation of specific wording in the Town Charter can be characterized as “coy.”

It is a gross and denigrating mischaracterization by Ms. Williams to say that Select Board member Mark Dockser and Chair Herrick “stomped and spit on the grave” of our “late Town Manager.”  (I do hope Bob is alive and well and enjoying his retirement.)  They both acknowledged his service and dedication to the Town.  They only offered valid opinions with which she disagrees.  In the end, Select Board member Dockser voted in favor of the motion presented, and the Select Board approved a payment of one month’s salary to our former Town Manager, in recognition of his exemplary work for the Town.  I agree with this decision, and I will vote in favor of this payment if re-elected to Town Meeting in April. Like so many others in Reading, I appreciate Bob’s work and commitment to the Town and I thank him for his service.


Angela Binda
Town Meeting Member Precinct 5
Orchard Park Drive

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