Council suggests goals for Town ManagerTension between Dodge and councilors heats up
The Town Council agreed upon six performance goals for Town Manager Nancy Dodge at a Monday, Sept. 23, meeting that also resulted in some tension between Dodge and two councilors.
The council will review Dodge’s performance based on meeting the requirements set forth in the goals. One review will take place in three months, and another at the end of a nine-month contract period. At a previous meeting, the council approved a draft contract for Dodge, but has yet to vote on the final version. The performance goals are separate from the terms of the contract; the final version of these goals has not been approved.
The six goals are: complete performance evaluation of all town department heads by January; provide weekly updates of various town projects to the town council; provide updates to the council of these projects at their monthly work session; maintain employee contracts (i.e. monitoring sick and vacation time); look at town issues including parking, Great Salt Pond pollution, bike paths and hedges and walls; and monitor the administration of town buildings and capital projects.
During the two-hour discussion, several options for goal-setting were proposed. At one point, a proposal from councilor Chris Warfel resulted in an argument with Dodge.
Warfel asked if a goal for Dodge could be to find areas in the town budget where there are “unnecessary expenses.” He said there was “new information” available to the council, which might help the council and Town Manager work on the budget.
“This might be new information to you, but it’s not new information,” said Dodge. Dodge said this conversation might be better suited to a Town Council work session with the town Finance Director present.
Warfel disagreed, and the two began to raise their voices. “I’m getting very tired of your approach to discussing things,” said Warfel. “You want to really pick fights about just about everything.”
Dodge responded: “I’m getting a little frustrated because a lot of this stuff is extraneous to the whole issue of whether there are going to be some specific goals for the town manager for my contract.”
Also during the meeting, Town Councilor Sean McGarry made several proposals. One was to downsize the staff at town hall, or to reduce the current employees to part-time. This idea was not accepted by other members of the council.
McGarry also said that one of Dodge’s performance goals be “to smooth a transition to a new town manager.”
This prompted Dodge to ask: “I’d like to hear from you folks [the council], if that’s what you think this is.” There has been some back and forth between Dodge and McGarry as to what McGarry’s intentions have been. In previous comments to The Block Island Times, McGarry stated that it was not his goal to remove Dodge from her position. Warfel has previously stated that he wanted to transition Dodge out of her position.
However, McGarry called Dodge “confrontational” and “adversarial,” words he has used at past meetings to describe Dodge’s demeanor during the performance of her job.
“We have a town manager employed that’s having a very difficult time working with two individuals on this council,” said McGarry. “It’s a very difficult working relationship. Is that what’s best for Block Island? Is that how we’re going to achieve going forward?”
Second Warden Ken Lacoste said that the decision has already been made to renew Dodge’s contract, and this is what the council should be working for. “I think professionalism works in both directions,” he said, adding that the council should be working “to building trust and to work things out, and in the meantime to get things done to help the town in moving forward.”
Dodge also responded to McGarry’s claims. “I’m more than willing to change my tone to have conversations,” she said. “We have to find a way to work together. I’ll make changes. If my tone is offensive, it’s not intended to be. I’m trying to be measured because, at times it is a little bit hurtful to hear that I’m doing nothing right.”
Four town councilors, excluding McGarry, said they were for a nine-month contract period, not a transition period.
BIHS management contract
Also at the Monday, Sept. 23, meeting, the council met with members of the Block Island Health Services (BIHS) board, and began a discussion about renewing the contract between the town and BIHS.
The two parties signed a one-year management agreement this past January, which explains the responsibilities of the town to help with building maintenance at the town medical center, and also lays out the town’s expectations of BIHS. Both parties agreed to get a head start on working to renew the contract, which expires in January 2104.
The BIHS board also agreed to draft new language about BIHS’s requirement to follow certain provisions of the Rhode Island Open Meeting Law. Board President Bob Fallon explained that it is difficult for the board’s fundraising committee to have open meetings when planning for its various fundraisers.
It also agreed to research the possibilities of having its fiscal year coincide with the town’s (the town’s fiscal year is July through June, while BIHS follows a calendar year).
There was also a discussion, prompted by McGarry, regarding LifeStar, the helicopter service used to transport patients off-island in a medical emergency. McGarry suggested that the helicopter land someplace other than at the school.