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Rindge Selectmen vote to not renew Town Administrator’s contract

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/10/2019 5:56:04 PM

Rindge Town Administrator Joe Byk’s three-year contract is up next month and is not being renewed by the Select Board.

Selectmen entered a nonpublic session during their July 3 meeting last week to discuss renewing Byk’s contract. The minutes of the nonpublic session, however, were not sealed, so they were available as of Tuesday.

After the nearly hour-long discussion, Selectwoman Roberta Oeser moved to not renew his contract. Selectman Karl Pruter seconded her motion and they voted for the motion with Selectman Robert Hamilton voting against the motion.

“It wasn’t a quick discussion,” Oeser said Tuesday. “We did discuss it a lot.”

Hamilton said Wednesday morning he was “strongly” against the motion.

“I was very satisfied with the job he had performed,” Hamilton said.

In a written statement to the Ledger-Transcript on Wednesday, Hamilton said: “At last Wednesday night’s Rindge Board of Selectmen meeting there was a very last second, and unexpected, non-public meeting called for by two of the selectmen.”

Hamilton wrote that he opposed the nonpublic meeting “about which I was unaware and unable to prepare for.”

Hamilton concluded the statement saying, “I was the opposing vote as it was my strong preference to re-new Joe’s contract.”

Byk declined to comment when contacted Wednesday morning.

Pruter did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the meeting minutes, Pruter said the current process of evaluating employees is “flawed.”

Oeser explained the minutes Tuesday, saying that Byk, in his three years with the town, has never been evaluated. The board’s policy is that it should be meeting with the town administrator and department heads annually to ensure they are meeting and or exceeding the board’s expectations in the performance of their duties, Oeser said.

Hamilton said while that is the board’s policy it has not been enforced and that it is certainly not an employee’s fault to not have been evaluated.

“It wouldn’t be up to the employee to call for his evaluation,” Hamilton said. “That’s absolutely not a reason.”

Hamilton said Byk was well-liked among department heads and residents that have dealt with him.

Michele Christian, who was hired by Byk as an executive secretary, said Tuesday she was on vacation last week when she heard the news. She said she considers Byk a friend.

“It was distressing,” Christian said. “It’s been difficult.”

In a Facebook post, Rindge man Larry Cleveland said, “Joe was loved by many, including department heads who adored him for his working with them on their budgets. Joe was a hard worker. ... It is no secret Oeser never liked Joe, but what is Pruter’s (sic) problem with him?”

Byk is paid $52,000 annually, or $1,000 a week, to work 30 hours a week. His contract came with some benefits including two weeks of vacation time a year and some sick time, Oeser said.

Oeser said Tuesday that she does not think Byk can perform his duties working from home, which he chooses to do at times, she said.

“He said he was working from home, which really isn’t possible,” Byk said. “You can answer phone calls and emails, but you can’t have access to the server at work. … For security purposes, no one has access from home.”

Oeser said Rindge needs a town administrator working in the town offices.

“In the contract and in the job description, when people come in with issues or problems, the town administrator is the representative of the Selectmen. Basically, they are the assistant to the Board of Selectmen. … They are the office of the Selectmen when we’re not in session.”

Oeser said she doesn’t believe the Select Board has time to form a search committee to find Byk’s replacement.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t think we have time to do a search committee. I think we’ll have to do it ourselves,” she said.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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