Saturday, May 18, 2013
By Paul Koenig
PITTSTON -- Supporters of the longtime town clerk fired last week by the Board of Selectmen submitted petitions Monday afternoon with around triple the number of signatures required to trigger an election to recall the three selectmen.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy END OF TERM: Ann Chadwick, center in blue, says she was terminated as town clerk Wednesday March 6, 2013 in Pittston by the selectmen.
Those board members -- Tim Marks, who is also a state representative; Wanda Burns-Macomber; and Ted Sparrow Jr. -- stood behind their decision on Monday evening and said they do not intend to resign.
Marks said Ann Chadwick's job performance was subpar for more than a year, and she did not make improvements when given the chance.
"I said last Wednesday that this was not personal, that this was a personnel matter," Marks said. "And we stick by that. We're sorry that the town is so divided. A lot of people have taken this personal, and please don't take it personal. This was a very well thought-out decision that happened over a period of time."
In a memo dated March 8, the selectmen noted a history of performance issues involving the former clerk, Ann Chadwick, and a failure to improve after two evaluations last year. Town attorney Matthew Tarasevich provided the memo to the Kennebec Journal.
The board concluded that Chadwick's "errors, mistakes and continued sub-par performance" didn't merit reappointment as town clerk, registrar of voters, deputy tax collector and deputy treasurer, according to the memo. Clerks perform a variety of tasks, including managing elections, issuing marriage licenses and advertising public meeting notices.
Chadwick supporters want her to have the opportunity to return as town clerk, but she said she would have to think about it if offered the job again.
Chadwick, 75, said she's still capable of doing the work, despite what the selectmen claim.
"If my performance had a lot of mistakes in it, I do believe the customers I waited on would have brought it to my attention," Chadwick said.
Selectmen first alerted Chadwick that they were considering not reappointing her in a Feb. 20 letter, according to the memo.
She offered at a March 4 meeting to retire after the March 18 election, and the board agreed to that.
When the board met with her two days later, however, Chadwick refused to provide the selectmen with a retirement letter and said she needed more time to think about it. The board went into executive session, came out a short time later, and voted unanimously not to reappoint her.
A small group of Chadwick's relatives and other supporters gathered around 330 of the nearly 400 total signatures Thursday night outside the fire station, after the Wednesday decision. People also signed petitions supporting the recall of the two remaining office staff members, but those employees can't be recalled, because they're appointed by the selectmen.
A town ordinance states that petitioners must present at least 137 signatures to force a recall vote, which equals at least 10 percent of Pittston voters who participated in the most recent gubernatorial election.
The town has 10 days to certify the signatures and pass them on to the selectmen. The board then has 10 days to order an election by secret ballot, which may be held 30 to 60 days after that.
The document about the decision listed mistakes Chadwick made in the last year and summarized her last two evaluations.
Among the mistakes were erroneously entering a customer check number as the check amount; erroneously issuing a marriage license and failing to correct the mistake; pushing the wrong button while backing up computer files, which cost the town "hundreds of dollars in employee man hours" to correct; and missing a deadline with the Department of the Secretary of State and failing to comply after receiving multiple phone calls from the state, according to the memo.
In her April evaluation, the board found that Chadwick needed to improve in following supervisors' directions, limiting and correcting mistakes, upgrading her computer skills, not relying on others to perform her work, and filing and reconciling bank statements.
The board noted that Chadwick's performance hadn't improved by the next evaluation, on Nov. 28, and the selectmen wrote that she continually asked other employees to do her assigned tasks and made errors on post-election work, among other problems, according to the document.
Chadwick said she fell behind in training between April and November as a result of missing more than two months of work because of a shoulder replacement procedure.
The document lists a handful of other mistakes Chadwick made in January and February after her last evaluation, which led to the board's decision.
Tracy Johnson, Chadwick's niece and a petition organizer, said she would be shocked if all the reports of errors listed in the document were true.
"This is a woman who has served her town for over 24 years and was basically forced out for whatever reason," Johnson said.
Jane Hubert, a former selectmen, said she's not aware of the mistakes cited by the selectmen, and she objected to the way they handled the situation.
"I just feel as though it wasn't handled in a way that was respectful of her time and effort at the Town Office," she said.
Hubert is running against Burns-Macomber, along with Stanley Byrne, in the March 18 election.
She said she always tried to have Chadwick wait on her when she went to the Town Office and hopes the office will become "more people friendly" with a new staff.
"I like Pittston," she said. "It's just a nice place to live. I hope things do heal up OK."
Staff Writer Susan McMillan contributed to this report.
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663