South Deerfield water board, superintendent tussle over retirement

  • The South Deerfield Water Supply District building, which sits on Sunderland Road, off of Route 116. STAFF PHOTO/JOSHUA SOLOMON

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2018 7:59:54 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — A new superintendent has been hired, but questions remain of when, if at all, the longtime leader of the water district will walk away. 

Questions of when Roger Sadoski would retire from the South Deerfield Water Supply District caused a flare of tensions between him and the Board of Commissioners at this week’s meeting. Sadoski denied claims he was trying to lock out the district from turning over the reins to its new hire, and he offered, if the commissioners really wanted to, they could just fire him. 

Hanging over the back-and-forth conversation remains an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which issued a subpoena for documents to the water district in May. The specific contents of the subpoena are still not public, despite multiple requests to the Attorney General’s Office, which has not confirmed whether an investigation exists, based on internal protocol, although the water district’s attorney has. 

Absent from the back-and-forth conversation was the newly hired superintendent, Andrew Dunn, who comes to town after being the head of Northampton Water Division. 

Dunn was hired following a review of several candidates who applied with competitive applications, according to the board. The expectation from the commissioners was he was hired to specifically take over the district from Sadoski, who has repeatedly stated he has wanted to retire for a couple years.

Sadoski said during his usual superintendent’s report that, “Everything went well with Andrew. Smart guy, like I knew.” The two worked together for the first time that same day.

Later on in the meeting, during a lull in conversation, Chairman David Wells, who is often the quietest of the three board members at meetings, brought up the topic that’s been on the board’s mind.

“Roger, we’re going to need a definite date on when you’re retiring,” Wells said.

“Yes, but a few things popped up,” Sadoski said.

He was alluding to a host of mostly minor issues from a recent Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Sanitary Survey and a manganese dilemma that continues to puzzle the district and DEP.

He said he had wanted to retire July 4, but that it didn’t work out.

“I don’t know when I’m really going to retire,” Sadoski said.

The longtime superintendent continued: “Andrew (Dunn) and I had this discussion a bit,” he said. “Maybe you should talk to him and see his thoughts on it.”

Commissioner Gary Stokarski pressed Sadoski on giving them a deadline, saying the board is trying to “put ourselves in a position to redevelop the department.”

Sadoski again urged the commissioners to speak about the transition with Dunn, but then reminded them, “It’s ultimately your decision — not his.”

In his conversations with Dunn Tuesday, Sadoski claimed the new hire said to him, “Do they think it’s magic, that I’ll know how to run this place?”

By one measure, Sadoski should have already left, Stokarski said.

On Sept. 6, Sadoski told the board that he was going to retire in 30 days, but Sadoski said that was to “prod you guys.” He said he wanted the board to move along with hiring a new superintendent.

With the dialogue between the board and Sadoski heating up, and no deadline for him to leave materializing out of the conversation, Stokarski continued to push that he wanted to “complete this transition.”

“You were talking about us dragging our feet. I think you’re dragging your feet,” Stokarski said. “At some point this transition has to take place.”

“You’re right; it has to take place,” Sadoski said. “Like I said, talk to Andrew.”

Sadoski said he was candid with Dunn that day, saying he thinks “some of the people (on the board) want me to leave instantly,” but that they don’t understand how much needs to go into a transition.

“If I walked out the door tomorrow, you don’t know how this place will be,” Sadoski said.

It takes a while to learn what’s needed to run the district, he said, and after 40 years working in the field, Sadoski said he’s still learning, begging the question — posed by Wells — of then when will anyone ever be ready to take over the job?

“How long will it take?” Wells said.

“I don’t know,” Sadoski said. “I guess you guys could fire me if you want.”

“You could be here another year?” Wells said.

“I don’t want to,” Sadoski said.

A special meeting will be held at the district’s office next week, Oct. 15, to discuss staffing, particularly the hiring of another employee to assist the superintendent. Dunn is expected to be at the meeting.

Bad back

Sadoski said earlier in the meeting he had hurt his back while shoveling on the job, but didn’t ask the board for any time off or state whether he needed medical attention. 

Another person was shoveling, but Sadoski explained there is an “art to shoveling” and it was getting late with the window to complete the job closing,  “So I jumped in the hole and did it myself.” 

“I screwed up my back and it’s been killing me ever since,” he said. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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