Standish hires interim town manager

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STANDISH — The Town Council appointed an interim town manager this week, nearly two months after firing its previous manager.

Councilors voted 6-0 on Sept. 11 to appoint former Bath City Manager Bill Giroux as interim manager while the town continues its search for a permanent replacement to Kris Tucker, who was fired without cause in late July.

Council Chairman Steven Nesbitt said Giroux has a “great deal of background.” Giroux will work about three days per week and be paid $400 per day.

“I think we’re going to be really pleased with Mr. Giroux,” said Nesbitt, who was the only councilor to comment on the appointment Tuesday night.

Giroux stepped down as manager in Bath last July after 11 years in the role.

“I’ve been telling people that I’m not retiring,” Giroux said last summer. “Because I fully intend after a year or so to get back into the business, or in some other business.”

He has spent three decades working in government, including time in Brunswick, Portland and Wells. He was manager of Bowdoinham before working in Bath.

“I like Standish – always have,” Giroux said by phone Wednesday, his first day on the job. “It’s a nice town, and Standish has grown a lot.”

After the meeting Tuesday night, Nesbitt said that Giroux “is potentially a candidate” in the full-time manager search being conducted by law firm Eaton Peabody. Nesbitt hopes to have the search concluded by “early November.”

Giroux said he had approached the town about the temporary position. He said he is focused on the interim role and wouldn’t speculate about the full-time manager search. 

Standish Finance Director Scott Gesualdi and Public Works Director Roger Mosley had been filling in as co-acting town managers since the council voted 6-1 to fire Tucker on July 23.

Councilor Peter Starostecki, the lone vote against Tucker’s termination, called the firing “a total snow job” the next day.

After his firing, Tucker made allegations of assault and sexual harassment against an unnamed town employee, and said he was the victim of false allegations made by the same employee.

Tucker did not identify the employee, who he accused of kicking him from behind in an apparent attempt at humor. He did say that the employee is the daughter of a town councilor.

Before he was fired, Tucker’s administrative assistant was Ruth-Ann LaBrecque, the daughter of Town Councilor Kimberly Pomerleau.

The council eventually pushed back against Tucker’s allegations in a press release, saying it “feels those allegations have no credibility” and stressed that his termination was due “to performance issues.”

Tucker’s lawyer, Gregg Frame, said that a third party review conducted by Deb Whitworth of HR Studio Group “completely exonerates (Tucker) and really leaves the town with some egg on its face.”

Town officials have not directly acknowledged that the review was conducted or what its findings were, but following a Freedom of Access request from the Lakes Region Weekly, Town Clerk Mary Chapman confirmed that Standish paid $13,750 to HR Studio Group without specifying why that payment was made.

Tucker was fired without cause, meaning he was entitled to severance and health care payments under his contract. His total severance payout, including health care and accrued vacation time, was over $44,000, according to Gesualdi.

Frame indicated in late August that he and his client would have an additional “demand to resolve this matter,” but has not specified what that was. He said this week the matter has since been referred to the town’s insurance counsel.

Nesbitt said that as of Sept. 11 no lawsuit had been filed related to the termination.

“We have notified our insurance about the situation,” Nesbitt said, declining to comment further.

The council was also scheduled to appoint a new councilor Tuesday night to replace former Councilor Isabel Higgins, but that vote was pushed to October.

Higgins resigned in early August citing “increasingly stressful situations and confrontational meetings” and telling a reporter she was “tired of having my integrity questioned.”

She said she wanted to share more information about her resignation, but that laws governing council executive sessions prevented her from doing so. Her comments came as she left early from a council executive session that evening.

Startostecki also left that closed meeting early, and expressed frustration about the extent that council business is conducted in executive session.

In the case of a resignation, the Standish Town Charter requires the council to appoint a replacement councilor to serve until the next regularly held election. Standish elects municipal officers in June.

Nesbitt said Tuesday that the council’s appointments committee had interviewed two applicants for the open District 1 council seat and had two additional applicants to interview before a final decision is made.

The council voted 6-0 to postpone the appointment until its Oct. 9 meeting. A special council meeting has also been scheduled for Sept. 18, which Nesbitt said will be held in executive session to discuss the hiring of a new town manager.

Nesbitt’s comments about next week’s closed door meeting came after the council held a brief executive session Tuesday night to discuss an unspecified personnel matter.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Editor’s note: Kris Tucker’s attorney, Gregg Frame, has represented the reporter’s parents in an unrelated property rights case.

The Standish Town Council has tapped former Bath City Manager Bill Giroux to serve as interim town manager.

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