SHIRLEY — Town Transition Manager Ron Marchetti updated the selectmen at their Nov. 1 meeting on the search for a chief administrative officer.
The new hire will fill the town administrator’s position, with a new title and job description. According to Marchetti, the CAO must have skills suited to the town’s needs going forward and duties will be geared to that goal.
Former town administrator Kyle Keady was fired “for just cause” by the selectmen in August after alleged serious misconduct was revealed during a state police investigation. Charges included wiretapping in the Town Offices and secretly filming women in an upstairs bathroom. The case is still in court.
The weeks after Keady’s well-publicized arrest and court arraignment were tough for town employees, as the investigation continued. Key to achieving closure after the buzz died down was notification of those identified as victims of the alleged spying.
Marchetti recently told a Shirley Oracle reporter that state investigators have finally notified all victims and that the case is headed to a grand jury.
Town business continued, with renewed purpose if not quite as usual.
Back in August, with a void to fill, selectmen asked Marchetti to step in. Already serving as transition manager, he agreed to take over on an interim, volunteer basis. Administrative Assistant Kathi Rocco continued to handle daily operations in the selectmen’s office.
Marchetti’s stated priority, after ensuring that things were running smoothly, was to launch a search for his permanent replacement.
At the meeting last week, he said resumes were received from 34 applicants. Noting that a professional search firm might have charged $75,000, he said the in-house search was meticulous and focused on the town’s specific needs. “To find the best qualified candidate, we had to determine our needs and write a job description,” he explained.
The Screening Committee would sift through the resumes and come up with a short list for selectmen to review, he said. He promised a list the following week.
About half the applicants were “good but not quite” the right fit, Marchetti said.
The next step will be for selectmen to interview finalists, Marchetti said.
Asked if the committee would interview candidates, Marchetti said the plan was to do a first cut of applicants, but no interviews, and discuss the choice of finalists with the board.
But Selectman David Swain said wants the committee to narrow the field to six candidates, interview them and choose three finalists for the selectmen to interview.
The board had not resolved that issue when another came up. Selectman Andy Deveau asked if interviews should be done in closed or open sessions.
Marchetti said the process had been “confidential so far,” to protect applicants’ privacy. Swain said final interviews with the selectmen must be in open session, by law.
The question then became whether Screening Committee sessions were exempt from the state Open Meeting Law, and if so, under which provision.
Marchetti said screening committees always meet in private. “You wouldn’t want to hurt people” whose current jobs might be jeopardized if the process were public, he said.
Besides, he continued, the search was conducted following Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) guidelines, “to the letter.”
Selectmen Chairman Kendra Dumont called for a legal read on the matter. “Let’s get clarification from town counsel,” she said. Her colleagues concurred.