Manager Evaluation Missed the Mark – Editorial

by | Apr 27, 2015

An Editorial by John Anderson

When I saw “Town Manager Evaluation” on the agenda for the Selectmen’s April 13th meeting, I knew we were in for a lively evening. In the middle of another story, I elected to watch the meeting at my house. I’m actually glad I wasn’t at Town Hall that night.

With the score sheets from each Selectman in hand, I watched the segment about the evaluations that night and have reviewed it on YouTube as well. While Town Manager Julie Jacobson received an overall rating of 4.3 on a scale of 1 to 5, it was only attained because Chairman Doreen Goodrich and Vice-Chairman Ken Holstrom gave Jacobson a perfect 5.

Denise Brotherton’s 4.55 rating was also above the final mark, but Steve Simonian gave a 3.89 and Dan Carpenter gave a 3.15. The scale is based on 1-Unsatisfactory; 2-Needs Improvement; 3-Satisfactory; 4-Excellent; and 5-Distinguished. There is nothing about Julie Jacobson that is just “Satisfactory.”

Jacobson is highly respected within the town and even across the Commonwealth by her peers. The town itself is the envy of other municipalities due to its bond rating, excess tax levy and strong financial standing. This has all been done during Jacobson’s tenure, and she regularly credits CFO Ed Kazanovicz, the town department heads and the town’s finance committee and financial advisers.

Dan Carpenter’s ratings were the most baffling to me. Of the 18 rated areas, he gave 13 ‘Satisfactory’ and 5 ‘Excellent’ scores. There is nothing about Julie Jacobson that is just “Satisfactory.” Carpenter added little during the meeting but did admit his scores were on the low side since this was his first time evaluating the Town Manager. Maybe a discussion with the Board Chair was in order to better understand the evaluation process.

Steve Simonian gave the only two “Needs Improvement” ratings of this process. The first was to the statement, “Keeps Board members informed on the issues, needs, and significant incidents of the Town departments.” Apparently, the 850 emails sent by Jacobson to Board members during the past year weren’t enough. While we all can do better in our jobs, this type of a rating is often construed as a warning for an employee. It just doesn’t make sense.

Simonian also gave a “2” for the statement, “Provides liaison to Town Counsel and Labor Counsel to protect the town and drive efficient use of legal funding appropriations.” Considering how much money Jacobson has saved the town on legal expenses, criticism seems unwarranted.

Simonian wrote, “I am deeply concerned that taxpayer dollars were spent on an investigation that would have been avoided if the TM had taken the time to have a basic consultation with the town clerk office.” He didn’t specify what Jacobson was supposed to ask the Town Clerk, but the investigation of election worker Patricia Joyce was necessitated by comments Simonian made about voter fraud last August. I have to ask who actually caused the taxpayer expense?

Julie Jacobson can hold her head up high without hesitation. She has performed admirably for the town, its employee, and its citizens. Despite deep personal tragedy last year, she got things done, very well done.