Unhappy with Oak Bluffs search, two committee members resign


Unhappy with a process that provides a clear path for interim town administrator Bob Whritenour, two members of the seven-member screening committee charged with presenting selectmen with final candidates for the job of Oak Bluffs town administrator resigned.

Bill McGrath, who represented the finance committee, and Gretchen Coleman-Thomas, who represented the personnel committee, resigned last week after a disagreement with selectmen about whether Mr. Whritenour, who has asked to be considered for the permanent job, should be required to submit to the search process.

Selectmen told the committee that Mr. Whritenour, who emerged from a previous search for an interim administrator, should automatically be considered a finalist for the permanent position.

The selectmen have set tight deadlines. William O’Brien, an Oak Bluffs resident and retired New York state judge, said the committee hopes to complete its work by mid-December.

“We’ve completed our review of 31 applications,” Mr. O’Brien said. “We’ve selected several who we will seek to interview. We hope to complete that in the next two weeks.”

Mr. McGrath said to evaluate other candidates, the search committee needs to interview Mr. Whritenour.

“To continue the good things the town has been doing of late, the screening committee process should be transparent, and all the candidates for the job of town administrator need to go through that process,” Mr. McGrath said.

Committee member Esther Hopkins is among those who decided to continue work on the committee, though she disputes the process. “By no means is my ongoing involvement an endorsement of the manner in which the board has chosen to hire the permanent town administrator,” Ms. Hopkins said in a statement. “I must underscore my belief that not requiring each applicant to undergo the complete process makes the field uneven and the process flawed.”

Selectman Walter Vail said he was sad to see the two members resign, but pleased overall with the progress toward meeting the selectmen’s December 18 target to hire a permanent town administrator.

“I thought that was pretty aggressive, but we might make that,” Mr. Vail said. “We have to keep moving, and we’re doing that.”