Oak Bluffs selectman resigns
Michael Dutton may seek town administrator's job
Michael Dutton, elected to a third three-year term last spring, resigned from the Oak Bluffs selectmen Monday and may seek the soon to be vacant post of town administrator.
Mr. Dutton, an attorney, announced his resignation and his intention to seek the job vacated by Casey Sharpe earlier this month, in a May 22 letter addressed to Duncan Ross, board chairman.
Mr. Dutton wrote that while the decision to resign was not an easy one and he is still uncertain if he would apply for the position, state ethics laws required that a period of 30 days elapse before the board could consider his application.
"While I have not decided whether to apply," wrote Mr. Dutton, "it would be unfair and unethical of me to participate in any discussions regarding the position, the hiring process, or anything else relative to the hiring of a new administrator."
Mr. Ross read the one-page letter at the regular Tuesday night selectmen's meeting. "Starting all these meeting with resignations is really driving me crazy," said Mr. Ross, referring to Ms. Sharpe's resignation on May 9.
Ms. Sharpe, Oak Bluffs's respected town administrator, served as the town's executive secretary for two years and as its town administrator for almost four years. She is expected to remain on the job for approximately the next six weeks and has agreed to help with the transition. Several present and former town officials, including Mr. Ross, said friction with selectman Kerry Scott played a part in Ms. Sharpe's departure, a view Ms. Scott rejects.
With only Mr. Ross, Ms. Scott, and Gregory Coogan present (Roger Wey was absent), news of Mr. Dutton's resignation provoked only a brief discussion Tuesday night.
Although the selectmen have normally screened and hired candidates for the post of town administrator, Ms. Scott said that if one of their recent colleagues ran for the position, she would feel more comfortable appointing a search committee. "We're being asked to screen one of our recent colleagues to be the head of all departments," she said. "I want it to be fair and devoid of any favoritism for Mike or any other applicants." She also questioned whether the ethics commission should be notified.
Mr. Ross thought otherwise. "The town administrator is somebody that works for the board of selectmen. Therefore the board should choose who it is," he said. "So I agree to disagree with you."
The board stipulated that applications for the position were due June 15, and all applicants must be Island residents.
Familiarity with the town political terrain may not work in Oak Bluffs's favor in its appeal for applicants. Ms. Sharpe's predecessor, Katie Nunez, said her difficult relationship with former selectman Linda Marinelli was the reason she resigned.
Ms. Sharpe was appointed the town's executive secretary in December 1999. She resigned in June 2001 to become the assistant to the superintendent of Martha's Vineyard Public Schools. One of the replacements hired to fill Ms. Sharpe's position left after only one day on the job.
The past difficulties and future challenges facing anyone selected for the job are not lost on Mr. Dutton. In a telephone conversation yesterday, he spoke about his interest in the job. "I think a successful town administrator in Oak Bluffs needs to know the town very well," said Mr. Dutton, who has lived in Oak Bluffs since 1993. "And needs to be a competent manager and have a thorough knowledge of town finances. And if you are not really well grounded, Oak Bluffs politics can really chew you up and spit you out."
Mr. Dutton said anyone considering the job needs to understand that the people of Oak Bluffs take an active role and active interest in what goes on. He said that his decision was prompted by several telephone calls from people urging him to consider the position and his own assessment of recent town affairs and the difficulties the town faced in the past finding the right person for the job.
"Knowing what the town has gone through looking for a town administrators in the past - I have sat through three searches for a town administrator - and with the exception of Casey," said Mr. Dutton, "we have had virtually no candidates."
Mr. Dutton said that after deciding that the job was a good match and provided a good opportunity, he thought it was important to resign from the board even as he considers applying for the job. He said it is up to the board to decide how it wants to go about filling the position.
Mr. Dutton said he expects that some people will think that he has the inside track and there is little he can say to change their view. "The only way I can respond to that," he said, "is that I would not make this move if I did not think that I was uniquely qualified to do the job."
The selectmen have looked within their ranks before to fill town posts. In December 2004, selectmen Dutton, Scott and Coogan, with former selectman Richard Combra abstaining, voted to approve the recommendation of Ms. Sharpe to hire Roger Wey, then chairman of the selectmen, Dukes County commissioner and the only finalist for the job to be the new director of the Council on Aging.
In other business
Taxicab owners showed up en masse to discuss new regulations drawn up by the police department. Designated cab stands now have extended hours, running from 7 am to 1 am, among other changes. The board voted to accept the changes. Cab owners brought up issues concerning a reduced number of waiting spots since last spring, and a point stipulating that drivers must have exact change for all passengers.
The board briefly discussed the ongoing possibility of joining the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury police chief. Mr. Ross said the board met with Tisbury officials last week, and another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 pm for further discussion.
Oak Bluffs patrolman Michael Marchand introduced a public safety event for children that will take place June 3 from 11 am-2 pm in Waban Park. The event is open to all Island children. Hot dogs and other refreshments will be served, and bicycles and helmets will be raffled off. Marchand said police vehicles will be on display, and children can line up to take rides in an off-Island helicopter.