NEWINGTON - Elected officials exercised their power to fire and hire when they terminated the employment of Town Manager Tanya Lane and appointed former Town Manager Keith Chapman to replace her.
Town Attorney Ben Ancona said the council’s actions at a Jan. 9 special meeting -– initiated by the Republican majority - were allowed under the Town Charter.
“The termination of Ms. Lane and the appointment of Mr. Chapman was a simple Town Charter Section 501 appointment of the town manager,” he said. “It was pretty basic. They wanted to go in a different direction.”
Lane will receive six months of severance pay, as specified in her contract.
Chapman, 70, was appointed for six months effective immediately. The town was still completing details of his contract this week.
“It will be similar to what Ms. Lane had, but we haven’t finalized it yet,” Ancona said.
Councilors opted against a 90-day temporary appointment, with the intention of taking the six months to conduct a search for a permanent new manager.
Chapman comes from a long career in municipal service in various towns including Newington, where he served as town manager from 1991 to 2001. He is a veteran of the. Coast Guard.
Mayor Beth DelBuono acknowledged that her party had been discussing the action for a few weeks before tellling Democrats of their intentions earlier that week and scheduling the meeting soon thereafter.
“With any personnel issue, you have to be careful when you take things public,” DelBuono said. “It became urgent in my mind to handle this matter expeditiously before rumors began flying around.”
The mayor thanked Lane for serving with “the utmost courage and grace,” especially during unforeseen challenges over the last three years.
“I know members of the public are going to be asking for reasons, but I will not dignify that, as I have shared my thoughts with Ms. Lane privately already,” she added.
Further requests for comment on what led up to the termination have not been answered.
“I truly appreciate everything you have done for the town,” Minority Leader Carol Anest told Lane. “It does not go unnoticed.”
Lane was town clerk from 2003 to 2016 before becoming town manager after the resignation of John Salomone. She thanked officials for the opportunity to serve.
“Newington has been very good to my family,” she said. “When you take this job, you understand what the consequences are. All good things must come to an end.”
During her tenure Lane was credited with launching a town-wide digital information system, securing a historic preservation grant to archive records, negotiating a fair contract with American Medical Response for the town’s ambulance service, and mitigating cleanup costs following the 2017 school bus garage diesel spill. She also oversaw the Town Hall/Community Center project, with an expected move-in date of July.
Former Town Councilor Maureen Klett called Lane’s termination “politics at its worst,” showing disdain for the body’s hush-hush deliberations and lack of transparency.
Others took a different stance.
“We don’t need to know the down and dirty,” Dana Havens said. “We just need to trust what’s being done is in the best interest of the town.”
“It’s well within your authority to appoint who you deem fit,” John Bachand told the council. “I fully support you.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.