Conway to do without administrator during search

Recorder/Paul Franz
Ice fishing at Lake Wyola on Wednesday.

Recorder/Paul Franz Ice fishing at Lake Wyola on Wednesday.

CONWAY — The Board of Selectmen will do without a town administrator for a few weeks while it finds a replacement for Ed MacDonald, the town’s first full-time town administrator, who suddenly resigned last week without public explanation after only two months.

MacDonald surprised the selectmen with a resignation letter last Monday. He offered to work until Feb. 7.

The selectmen, however, have decided not to wait until Feb. 7 after discovering MacDonald had been secretly working two town administrative jobs.

In the crammed and crowded selectmen’s meeting room at Town Office on Monday, the board formally accepted MacDonald’s resignation effective immediately.

MacDonald was supposed to attend Monday’s selectmen meeting, but his desk and seat were left vacant.

When asked what would happen to town functions now that there is no town administrator, Chairman John O’Rourke said, “we have these things covered.”

The selectmen hired MacDonald in October as the town’s first full-time town administrator.

The position was a salaried 37.5-hour-per-week job with the salary set at $52,000.

The selectmen were under the impression MacDonald had resigned from his former part-time town administrator position in Chester. But The Recorder learned that MacDonald had never given up his Chester job. MacDonald adjusted his hours in Chester to fit in the two jobs. Before starting his job in Conway, MacDonald worked 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Chester Monday through Wednesday. He adjusted his hours later to Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturdays.

While the Chester board was aware of MacDonald’s arrangement, he never told the Conway selectmen.

The selectmen will start the search process for a new town administrator as soon as it can advertise for the position. One of the changes the selectmen may consider is hiring both a town administrator and administrative aide. On his first day on the job, MacDonald had laid off the former aide, Tom Spiro, who was employed by the town for 7½ years.

The last time, the search, interview and hiring process took six weeks.

“We hope to do it as quickly as possible,” Selectman Rick Bean said. “We want the full-time town administrator to help us move forward.”

The Personnel Committee will once again be involved in the search.

The Selectboard hopes MacDonald’s departure and his replacement will be a new beginning for its tenure.

“What we want is to make good decisions for Conway,” Bean said. “Hopefully, we’ll make a good decision on the hiring.”

In December, town residents learned the selectmen were quietly developing a proposal for a new municipal multi-complex on the former Rose property off Shelburne Falls Road. Weeks before he officially began his job in Conway, MacDonald had organized a site visit with two Westfield engineers, R. Levesque Associates and architect Christian Carey.

The main concern for town residents and officials was their exclusion from the project planning, not the proposal itself. Other boards and committees have been developing other ideas for the 11 acres. The selectmen stated they were simply gathering information before presenting their idea to the town.

With MacDonald’s replacement, the selectmen also hope to erase any confusion related to the chain of command in Town Office.

“One of the things that made it uncomfortable was a lot of us were confused by the chain of command. We were not sure who to go to for what,” said Pixie Holbrook, the Housing Committee chairperson.

O’Rourke assured the town that “it won’t be confused anymore. A lot of problems will be solved by Ed’s resignation.”

“All of us have gone through a difficult past two months,” said Planner David Barten. “We know mistakes were made along the way. We all make mistakes. We hope the future will be better than it has been.”

The newest selectman, Bean, has been the recent target of a petition calling for his resignation. The petition, whose author has not been public, has been available for the past two weeks.

“It was a difficult time for me,” Bean said.

He added that he attended a training session called “The legal nuts and bolts of the selectboard,” hosted by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments last week.

“The substance of what’s gone on was never much in question,” said Robert Anderson, a resident and member of the Friends of the South River. “It was the appearance of impropriety that was the concern of most. Things appeared to be odd, not that they were. There’s been this petition that is critical of Mr. Bean. It’s attacked his character in ways that are uncalled for.”

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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