In sharp contrast to her previous praise for Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Select Board member Diane Mahon at the Oct. 25 meeting publicly admonished him.
Mahon was concerned that Chapdelaine did not attend the annual firefighters’ retirement banquet, or send a substitute or notify the firefighter department in writing in advance of the event.
“This is an event to show your respect and support,” she said at the televised meeting. “We had a delegation from both the state and the Select Board, but no one from the town manager’s office, an outright snub and sign of disrespect. This event is in your contract, and when you receive a request by any union or nonunion, you need to respond.
“To say that it’s because of Covid-19, maybe you shouldn’t be in municipal employment. You didn’t check that only 100 people attended, and the tables were 10 to 12 feet apart.
“All night long, I was asked, ‘Where’s the town manager, where are the department heads?’ It was an insult and embarrassment to the firefighters and their families. To totally blow them off, I feel you owe an apology.
“I was upset and embarrassed that night. I hope I can get a commitment that this will never happen again, and there will be at least some Town Hall representation.”
Chapdelaine said: “I made a very hard decision to not attend the firefighters’ retirement banquet based on Covid concerns. I’m not going to such events until my two small children are vaccinated.
“I respect everyone’s decisions around Covid, and would expect the same of mine. I’ve attended every firefighters’ retirement banquet since I started as deputy town manager, and regret that it was a decision that I had to make.
“I don‘t understand the accusation that it was a snub, without letting anyone know. That is neither accurate nor factual. I care very deeply about our firefighters, their families and the work they do for the town.”
During Mahon’s comments, other Select Board members and town officials appeared to look uncomfortable.
Board Chair Steve DeCourcey tried to steer the conversation back to the agenda. “This is better talked about off-line, rather than during tonight’s meeting. I respect people’s choices whether or not they attend this event.”
Board member Eric Helmuth said, “It’s entirely within the scope of an exemplary town manager’s performance to do exactly what he decided to do. I don’t think it’s appropriate to second-guess anyone’s health decisions about Covid.
“We all value immensely the contributions made by our public servants and first responders, and I hope that Arlington citizens understand that our town manager and staff are fair and make valued contributions.
“Browbeating the town manager over a specific incident in the middle of a pandemic is inappropriate to the dignity of this body, and not a good use of the public’s time.”
Finance Department presentation
Mahon also said that Chapdelaine neglected her request to ask Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler to have Comptroller Ida Cody present their financial report to the board. (Pooler gave the entire presentation, not Cody.)
“I mentioned this to the town manager after last year’s report. The Select Board’s comptroller is a very educated, intelligent woman who works just as hard as Mr. Pooler,” Mahon said. “After last year’s meeting, a few people asked whether she is Mr. Pooler’s secretary. I’d like to request that next year we allow Ms. Cody to present the report.”
Mahon also told Pooler that he should feel free to talk to Chapdelaine about her discussion with Chapdelaine last year.
Chapdelaine’s employment history
Town officials, including members of the Select Board, who evaluate the town manager and approve his employment contracts, have consistently given Chapdelaine solid support and high marks since he got the job in 2012. Select Board member Mahon, in particular, has lavished high praise on Chapdelaine’s performance.
Meanwhile, the manager has looked elsewhere for employment three times: Vermont in 2016, North Attleborough in 2019 and most recently Natick, earlier this year. Each time, Chapdelaine declined the offer, and continues his role as Arlington’s town manager.
Negotiations for the manager's new three-year contract are continuing in closed sessions.
See the entire Oct. 25 broadcast on ACMi:
This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.