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Brunswick to pay town manager more than $54K to leave

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Brunswick to pay town manager more than $54K to leave

BRUNSWICK — Town Manager Gary Brown will receive more than $54,000 when he leaves his job this year, under terms of a severance agreement signed last month by Brown and former Town Council Chairwoman Suzan Wilson.

The Dec. 23, 2013, agreement, obtained Wednesday from Brown, provides previously undisclosed details about the town manager's unexpected departure. Under the deal, for example, Brown will keep his town-issued iPad.

The agreement provides Brown with six months of pay, based on his $109,000 annual salary. He will also receive no more than six months of accrued vacation pay and a cash equivalent of three months of health insurance, set at the town's current monthly contribution rate.

Brown's departure was announced the day the agreement was signed and is effective no later than March 31. He will receive normal pay and benefits through his last day on the job, as long as he provides two weeks' notice if he leaves early.

With two weeks' notice the council can also ask Brown to leave before March 31, and elect to pay him in lieu of working for those two weeks.

The severance agreement includes a non-disparagement clause that prohibits Brown and councilors from making any defamatory or disparaging remarks about each other, "unless the communication is made necessary by Maine law or is required by a court order."

Brown will also have to sign a general release and waiver of claims against the town.

Brown and the council also agreed to issue a joint public statement about the town manager's resignation that reflects "positively upon (Brown's) tenure with the town."

Wilson, the District 3 councilor who was council chairwoman last year, was designated in the agreement to help with Brown's transition. She co-wrote with Brown the joint statement that was released on Dec. 23.

At the time, councilors provided little public comment. Newly re-elected Councilor David Watson, of District 1, expressed disappointment, but the only official explanation for Brown's resignation was the press release from Wilson, who cited the desire for a "new direction for the council."

"As a result, we began discussions with (Brown) regarding the future direction of the town and have arrived at an agreement that works for both the town and (Brown)," she said.

In the same press release, Brown said "I recognize that it is in the best interest of the new council to find someone who will work with them as they seek the direction that they want to take this community."

He later told the Bangor Daily News that he wasn't forced to resign.

Wilson has since refused to clarify the course of the "new direction."

"The press release speaks for itself," she said Monday night, after newly elected Councilors Jane Millett and Steve Walker, and Watson were sworn in at the council's inauguration event.

But statements by Councilors Benet Pols, John Perreault, Millett and Walker suggest the new council isn't moving in lockstep.

"There's no consensus that there is a particular direction," Pols, one of the two at-large councilors, said, adding that "a new direction" was Wilson's phrasing. He and Councilor Sarah Brayman, of District 7, were unanimously elected at Monday's meeting as chairman and vice chairwoman, respectively.

Perreault, of District 4, echoed Pols remarks.

"I don't know where (Wilson) came up with that wording," he said. "I would certainly ask what she meant by her words. It's not like we sat as a council and said we want to go in that direction."

Millett, of District 6, and Walker, of District 2, said they were surprised by Brown's resignation.

"I was not included in any of the conversations at all," Millett said.

Walker added: "I, too, was surprised by (Brown's) announcement."

The two new councilors also said they were confused by Wilson's "new direction" statement, given that they had no input on Brown's resignation.

"I don't know what she's specifically referring to," Millett said, though she added it's possible it could be related her and Walker's arrivals.

Walker said he was "frustrated," "annoyed" and "disappointed" that Wilson used the phrase, making it seem as if the previous council was trying to "cast aspersions" on the new one.

"The decision should have been owned by the outgoing council, instead of pinning it on the new council," he said.

During Monday's meeting, the council tabled committee appointments and its annual appointment of a town attorney to Jan. 21, after motions by Pols.

Pols said while "it's customary to appoint the town attorney at the beginning of the year," the search and evaluation process for a potential new attorney, previously led by Wilson, deserved greater scrutiny.

He added that the absence of at-large Councilor John Richardson, who has also been involved with the process, was another reason for delaying the decision.

As for committee appointments, Pols said he needed more time to talk with councilors about their preferences.

In an address at the end of Monday's meeting, Pols said the council will begin discussing its search for a new town manager. He urged the public to stay engaged.

"Councilors David Watson, Gerald Favreau and I went through (hiring Brown) in 2009," Pols said, "so I hope they'll be able to lead a discussion regarding what went well with that process, what went poorly with that process, and how we might learn from it, and how we might improve upon it."

The Town Council will meet on Saturday at the Brunswick Inn, 165 Park Row, for a day-long retreat to discuss its goals for the year, along with its search for a new town manager. The meeting begins at 9 a.m., and is open to the public.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.