City extends interim manager's contract to March
John MacLean served the city of Keene for 20 years and is wrapping up an interim stint in Hollis
By GLYNIS HART
CLAREMONT — The city council voted to continue interim City Manager John MacLean's employment through March while it searches for a new city manager to replace Ryan McNutt, who was summarily fired by the council a month ago. They also increased MacLean's hours from two days a week to three.
MacLean is a retired city manager who served the City of Keene for 20 years.
Several citizens spoke up in the council meeting to say they disagreed with the council's actions.
Ward 2 resident Meg Hurley, reading from a prepared statement, accused the mayor of overstepping her job duties: “It seems we have bigger problems than unsubstantiated allegations pertaining to how our former city manager communicated. It appears that Mr. McNutt's stance, while carrying out his duties, which is guided by the 12 tenets of the International City Managers Association, meant that he had to push back against city council and the mayor, who were almost certainly crossing professional and ethical boundaries set forth in Claremont's charter, violating the no-interference clause.”
Hurley cited the charter's brief description of the mayor's duties, which are to preside at meetings, speak and vote at those meetings, and preside as head of the city for ceremonial duties. Hurley accused the mayor of micromanaging the city manager and having a high number of closed-door meetings to which the city manager was not invited — in violation of the city charter, she said.
City resident Andy LaFrenier said he was concerned with how this makes Claremont look.
City resident David Putnam said he had also talked with former City Planner Mike McCrory and former department of public works Superintendent Scott Sweet, and said they left because they were micromanaged by the mayor.
“Mayor Lovett, I hope you can hire the staff and then let them do their job,” said Putnam.
Resident Joe Osgood said he agreed with the firing.
Renewable energy tax exemption
The council held a first reading of a new tax exemption. The purpose of the exemption is to encourage people to add solar arrays or other renewable energy systems to their homes by not taxing the added value to their property. The exemption only applies to private homeowner systems, such that are used to power the residence or sell energy back to the grid.
City Economic Development Director Nancy Merrill mentioned that a bill in the state legislature may expand the definition of solar, so that may affect the ordinance if it passes.
There will be a second reading of the exemption in February.
City manager search
Councilor Claire Lessard said, “I'm going to make enemies, but I'm going to say it anyway. I disagreed with the firing of City Manager McNutt. I'm voting to rehire him and save a whole lot of money and a lot of grief and aggravation for the city.”
That being said, the council voted to extend interim City Manager John MacLean's employment through March. The city will contract with Municipal Resources, Inc. to do part of the search process, although without knowing which firm they're going with, no clear estimate of cost and no timeline could be announced. Councilor Scott Pope gave a ballpark estimate of $14,500 to $17,000 to hire MRI.
The city will take a “hybrid” approach, doing part of the search in-house and using a consulting firm for advertising, background checks, etc.
In response to a suggestion from resident Patrick Adrian, Councilor Pope said the last time the city went through the process, there was a citizen's group on the search committee, which vetted candidates and made its own recommendations. Adrian said he would like public input into the hiring process.
In addition, Pope said the New Hampshire Municipal Association should come visit the council and train them in “boundaries on both sides,” to delineate the authority and responsibilities of both the council and the city manager.