July 02, 2020

Houlton town manager resigns under duress

HOULTON – Town Manager Allan K. Bean resigned unexpectedly Tuesday, even as questions arose over the manner in which he was forced to do so.

Bean’s resignation, which was dated Dec. 26, gave no reason for his sudden departure, but at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, it was suggested that clandestine meetings had been held by some members of the council in an effort to force Bean out.

Bean did not attend the meeting.

Councilor Michael Carpenter, a former state attorney general, questioned why some members of the council had discussed their views last week as to whether or not they would vote in favor of Bean’s resignation, if it were presented, while others were not even informed that the resignation was being sought.

“I find this to be reprehensible and I find this to be potentially illegal,” said Carpenter, who along with councilors Philip Bernaiche and Charles Daly was not informed of what was going on.

When he did learn that Bean had been offered a deal, “it became apparent, in my opinion, that a clandestine meeting had taken place,” he said.

Town attorney Daniel Nelson said Wednesday that at the request of council Chairman Paul Romanelli, he informed Bean last Thursday afternoon that there were sufficient votes on the council to terminate Bean’s contract or support his resignation.

The town’s charter allows that a manager can be removed for just cause, or the council can vote no confidence or simply vote to terminate the contract.

Nelson said Bean agreed to resign, provided he could get his severance package as stipulated in his contract.

Bean is paid $49,500 a year. In accordance with his contract, he will be paid three months salary and benefits. Up to an additional nine months of salary and benefits also will be paid while he seeks equivalent employment.

Reached at home Wednesday, Bean said that no one ever came to him and specifically told him what he was doing wrong.

“No reasons were given and, for my part, none were required,” he said.

He said that when he was hired in August 1994, he maintained that when the time came that the town wanted a new manager, he would resign.

“That did not change over the years,” he said. “When they asked, I moved.”

After an executive session Tuesday night to discuss a lawsuit filed against the town by three former town police officers, the council voted 5-1 to accept Bean’s resignation. In a related action, the council voted unanimously to appoint Town Clerk Cathy O’Leary as acting town manager – as stipulated in the town’s charter – and to pay her at the same rate as Bean.

O’Leary met Wednesday morning with the town’s department heads to “regroup,” she said, and to make the transition a smooth one, while the town searches for a new manager over the next two to three months. The Maine Municipal Association will be assisting the town in the search process, she said.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Carpenter asked his fellow councilors to explain their support for Bean’s resignation.

“What exactly did Mr. Bean do wrong?” he asked.

Except for Councilor Hal Britton, who said he did not want to elaborate, Carpenter got few answers.

Councilor Paul Cleary said he was concerned over the excessive number of lawsuits filed against the town, but then chastised Carpenter for questioning councilors.

“I’m not going to sit here and let you preach to me,” he shouted to Carpenter. “You’ve been on this council for three damn meetings.

“Now all of a sudden, you’re holier than thou,” he continued. “Sit here for a year, don’t sit here for three meetings and then think you know everything that’s going on.”

Calling a halt to the debate without allowing councilors to respond to Carpenter’s question, council Chairman Romanelli said that before councilors were asked last week about their positions on a potential resignation from Bean, he had checked with the town’s attorney to see if that was legal.

“I don’t believe there was anything illegal done,” he said, also declining to answer Carpenter. “There were no clandestine meetings.

“You’ve got a vivid imagination and your facts are way out of line,” he said.

Romanelli did not return a call to his office on Wednesday.

Nelson said Wednesday that to the best of his knowledge, no secret meetings or conference calls were held among councilors last week.

“I think it’s appropriate for any councilor to see if he has any support for an action from any other individual councilor,” he said. “That’s what I understand happened.”

Councilor Charles Daly expressed concern Wednesday about the way the matter was handled.

“It’s the [lack of] communication; it’s the nonprocedure that was followed,” he said. The four other councilors “took it upon themselves to offer this ultimatum.

“It makes me wonder why we need seven councilors,” he said.

The fact that Romanelli, as chairman, participated in the process also upset Daly.

“I will actively and harshly pursue Romanelli’s removal as chairman,” he said.

Councilor Philip Bernaiche, who has long called for the removal of Bean, said he supported Bean’s resignation.

“My vote was secure, as far as that goes,” he said, though he questioned the process used to get the resignation.

“Maybe it wasn’t done right and we should have had a meeting and not talked on the telephone,” he said. “That’s not good for the people.”

Bean said Wednesday that he will be actively looking for a new job, in the area, if possible, but “I’ll have to cast a broad net in my job search.

“I will always fondly remember my turn at bat as the town manager,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working for the people of the town.

“This is a great community,” he added. ” We’ve gotten a lot of great things done in the last six years.”

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