November 16, 2012

Skowhegan manager suspended for one week

BY DOUG HARLOW Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- Town Manager John Doucette Jr. was suspended for one week without pay by the Board of Selectmen on Thursday night for violating the town's personnel policy.

The 5-0 vote came after two hours of closed sessions with the town's lawyer, Warren Shay, and Doucette's lawyer, Bill Lee.

"The town manager has violated the personnel policy by misleading the selectmen on a personnel matter," Selectman Newell Graf read in his motion for a vote. "He proposed suspending himself for a week without pay. This corrective action shall be placed in the town manager's personnel file."

Selectmen said after the vote that they could not discuss the particulars of the violation, saying it was a personnel matter and that under Maine law they cannot reveal details of the violation.

Doucette said after the vote that he was satisfied with the board's decision and felt that he had been treated fairly. He said he will determine when he will take the week suspension, but declined to comment further.

Graf and Chairwoman Joy Mase said the board had held two other executive sessions recently. One on Oct. 23 was to discuss the town's code of ethics. They said they could not discuss what was said in those sessions.

The Skowhegan Code of Ethics for Elected and Appointed Officials was adopted by selectmen in May 2011.

Doucette said in July of that year that it was his idea to adopt a code for Skowhegan, as he had done when he was town manager of Norridgewock.

Under the code, selectmen may censure, or publicly criticize, an elected or appointed official -- including the town manager or a selectman, if he or she does not comply with the standards of the code and may remove any appointed official after notice and a hearing. Elected officials, such as the road commissioner and the town clerk, can only be removed from office through the town's recall ordinance.

The Skowhegan code covers members of all town boards, committees and commissions, except the school board.

It also covers conflicts of interest and opportunities for personal gain. Officials will not discuss or disclose confidential information and shall not use public resources for personal use, under the code.

"Members themselves have the primary responsibility for ensuring that ethical standards are understood and met and that the public can continue to have full confidence in the integrity of government," the code reads.

Doucette, 60, was hired in 2008 at an annual salary of $63,000. He took over for Philip Tarr, whose contract was not renewed by selectmen.

Selectmen agreed to a three-year contract for Doucette in January, effective July 1, with a pay raise to an annual salary of $66,837.

He also was granted a fourth week of vacation time.

Doucette was Norridgewock town manager for five years before he was hired in Skowhegan.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

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