Oak Bluffs agrees on contract deal for interim town administrator

Oak Bluff's new interim town administrator Bob Whritenour. — Photo courtesy of Bob Whritenour

Updated 12 pm, September 1, 2010

Former Falmouth town manager Bob Whritenour will begin work Tuesday as the interim town manager for Oak Bluffs, after the town selectmen approved a negotiated contract agreement during an executive session Tuesday evening.

The contract calls for Mr. Whritenour to work for 13 weeks, at a salary of $1,731 per week, representing an annual rate of $90,000.

The town has been without an administrator since August 1. Former town administrator Michael Dutton resigned on July 31, under terms negotiated with the board, following a series of missteps including a botched election and a reprimand from the state attorney general’s office over bidding and procurement practices.

As a contract employee, Mr. Whritenour will not be entitled to health or pension benefits, but will accrue five days vacation, three days sick leave, and one day of personal leave during his term of employment.

“I have agreed to the terms and I’m absolutely delighted,” Mr. Whritenour said in a phone interview Wednesday. He said he began to prepare for the job as he negotiated the terms of his contract over the past two weeks.

“I’ve been working a little bit with the board of selectmen, discussed their concerns and issues,” Mr. Whritenour said. “There’s going to be a great deal of learning on my part.”

The contract requires Mr. Whritenour to work full-time, including any extra hours and travel related to the position. He will not be paid overtime. He will have access to a town vehicle for Island travel, but will not be reimbursed for travel to and from Falmouth.

He will not be entitled to any change in salary or benefits, and cannot work for any other municipality without disclosure and the agreement of the board of selectmen.

Selectmen Kathy Burton, Mike Santoro, and Walter Vail voted in favor of hiring Mr. Whritenour. Gail Barmakian voted against. Greg Coogan did not attend the meeting.

Ms. Barmakian said she objected to the terms of the contract governing time off, including permission to attend a professional conference Mr. Whritenour planned before taking the Oak Bluffs job.

“I just didn’t believe a 13-week temporary employee should get that many paid days off, which amount to a quarter of the contract,” Ms. Barmakian said.

Maybe more

During his interview with the board, he said he was very interested in the permanent position of town administrator, and remains interested.

“We’re going to take things one step at a time, we’ve got some very specific goals that the board of selectmen need to get accomplished,” Mr. Whritenour said. “We’re keeping our options open for the permanent position, but for right now our agreement is for the interim job.”

Mr. Whritenour was the town manager in Falmouth for ten years, handling a budget of $108 million last year, and negotiating contracts with seven separate collective bargaining units. He resigned his Falmouth post last fall as part of a negotiated departure, after his relationship with that town’s selectmen soured.

He has also worked municipal positions for the town of Mashpee and the city of Newburyport.

He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, and has a master’s degree from the University of Maine, both in the study of public administration.

Mr. Whritenour said he will work on site at the Oak Bluffs town administration building, and looks forward to spending time on the Island.

He is no stranger to the Martha’s Vineyard sporting community. He said he participates in the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club catch and release tournament each year. As he spoke on Wednesday, he said he was preparing for a fly fishing outing in pursuit of bonito and false albacore.

Accounting help

Selectmen have also reached an agreement with Sullivan Rogers and Company for accounting services.

Sullivan Rogers and Company worked for several months this spring to complete long overdue reports and accounting work. No money was budgeted in the current year for a town accountant or contract accounting services. Voters rejected a Proposition 2.5 article that included $75,000 to hire an accountant.

Stacie Ward, the contract accountant who worked on the town’s books this spring, began helping with the Oak Bluffs finance department two weeks ago, under the terms of an engagement letter.

The agreement calls for her to close the books on the 2011 fiscal year, prepare financial reports required by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, and help with financial issues.

Ms. Ward works at a rate of $125 per hour, for about 16 hours per week. The contract limits her firm’s work to 240 hours, or $30,000, the amount allocated from the finance and advisory committee’s emergency reserve fund in July.

The positions of finance director and treasurer have been vacant since October, 2010, when Paul Manzi died. Mr. Manzi held both posts. Selectmen recommended, and voters approved, leaving the posts vacant in order to fill revenue gaps.

This article was updated to reflect the selectmen’s vote, and the comments of selectman Gail Barmakian.