BERLIN -Jack Healy is now the permanent Town Manager The council unanimously approved the employee agreement Tuesday night.
“I enjoy this town,” Healy told The Herald. “Thank you all,” he said to councilors after they accepted the agreement.
Healy had been serving as the interim town manager since February 2017 after the council accepted a separation agreement between former Town Manager Denise McNair and the town the month prior. She received about $60,000 in severance pay and insurance benefits.
Mayor Mark Kaczynski said he approached McNair, who had been in the position for eight years, with the separation agreement a couple weeks prior to its acceptance as a way to bring change to the town.
Healy maintained his responsibilities as Public Works Director and Town Engineer while serving in the interim position and received a $3,000 monthly stipend for the extra work.
“(Customer service) is so important and he demonstrated that time and time again,” Kaczynski told The Herald after the meeting Tuesday on Healy’s appointment. He added Healy’s 16 months of filling in, Connecticut roots, background in engineering and public works, and experience on the Board of Selectman, Finance and Education in Litchfield as pluses.
Democratic councilors were initially opposed to the appointment of Healy as he is a resident of Litchfield and the charter states the top manger of the town is required to live in Berlin.
Section 5-1 of the charter states, “At the time of appointment, said Manager need not be a resident of the town or of the State of Connecticut but the Manager shall reside in the town during tenure of office.”
Removing the residency requirement was proposed as part of 2016 charter revisions, but it was shot down as part of a question that asked for multiple charter language changes.
“The man’s there,” said Democratic Councilor Peter Rosso. “We did the best we could for the town,” adding fellow Democrat councilors Karen Pagliaro and JoAnn Angelico-Stetson made some suggestions on cleaning up the contract. Rosso declined to say what exactly the suggestions were as they were discussed in a closed door session.
Included in the employee agreement for Healy and the town is language stating, “For purposes of this Agreement and to avoid any ambiguity or dispute, “reside” and/or “resident” shall be defined as the Employee having a bodily presence in Berlin (in a place where Employee is physically located) for the term of this Agreement and where the usual conditions of household life exist.”
Kaczynski said the charter was being followed and a Supreme Court case from 2012 explained that residence does not mean domicile, so Healy could have a permanent residence in Litchfield, and a dual residence in Berlin. Corporation counsel Jeff Donofrio previously said as long as Healy buys or rents property in town he will qualify for Berlin residency.
Healy has one year to meet the residency. He and Kaczynski said they didn’t feel like he was side-stepping the charter after seeking the clarification of the clause from Donofio. Healy was unsure what “usual conditions of household life exist” meant and Donofrio did not return a request for comment on the issue. Kaczysnski said Healy would be staying overnight in the in-town residence during the week to meet the requirement.
As part of the agreement, Healy will have a performance evaluation in six months. He will have a phone and a town car for commuting and job related responsibilities, which carried over from when he was the Department of Public Works director.
Healy’s salary will be $140,000 and there will also be severance in the event of termination based on tenure, which is retroactive to when he began filling in. Outside of explaining the residency clause, the agreement is largely based off the contract of McNair’s, Kaczynski said.
Healy was chosen from a group of three candidates.
The town will be looking for a new public works director, Kaczynski said.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.