Selectmen will use technology to remotely interview the town’s four Town Manager finalist candidates Monday night in an effort to remain in compliance with new social distancing rules.
A majority of the board will be located in the Abington Community Access & Media studio, with candidates appearing via Zoom, a popular video conferencing program. Selectmen Jim Connolly, who is currently in Florida, will also participate in the discussion through the online program.
The four finalists, who were vetted and recommended by the Town Manager Search Committee, are: Jeremy Caudle, Budget Manager for Mesa County, Colorado; Lincoln Heineman, of Scituate, and the Finance Director for the Town of Hanover; Scott Lambiase, of Whitman, and the Director of Operations for the Town of Duxbury, and Michael Mullen, of Rockland, the County Director in the Norfolk County Commissioner’s Office.
The committee told the board in its recommendation letter it had received 23 applications from people interested in becoming Abington’s Town Manager, and ultimately chose 11 for preliminary interviews before selecting the four finalists.
The interviews will start at 6 p.m. and last approximately an hour each.
Wednesday’s board meeting was the first since state and town health officials leveled a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Abington Town Hall is closed to group gatherings, the board held the meeting in the town’s cable studio, but it was not open to the public.
Although the meeting was broadcast live, technical difficulties made it a challenge for many residents to watch. The broadcast cut in and out for those watching through a Verizon cable TV connection. Comcast customers reported not being able to watch the meeting at all. A complete recording of the meeting was posted online a couple of hours after the meeting ended.
Board chairman Jim Connolly recognized the unusual circumstances at the start of the meeting, saying the current set up wasn’t ideal but the best way for the board to continue conducting business.
“This is an unprecedented time for everyone…Town employees are working night and day to protect our public health and trying to continue the tasks of municipal government. That includes the Board of Selectmen,” he said. “This COVID-19 situation is also why we are conducting this selectmen’s meeting in this fashion. It is not to hide anything. It is merely the best way forward in light of current conditions. Remotely and through cable access, until this crisis is over, is the best way to keep you, the public, informed.”
The Baker Administration earlier this month relaxed Open Meeting Law regulations, giving municipal boards extra flexibility during the public health emergency to meet via phone, computer or other alternative methods, so long as a complete transcript or recording of the meeting is publicly posted shortly afterwards.
The board spent the majority of the meeting discussing how to conduct the candidate interviews fairly. In previous years, the board would interview one candidate at a time in an open meeting with the public present; finalists would stay sequestered while waiting for their turn. With interviews happening remotely and being broadcast live, selectmen worried whether later candidates would be able to watch and get an advantage.
Selectman Tim Chapin said ultimately they would have to trust the candidates to do the right thing. “There’s always ways to cheat. I don’t think any of them would,” he said.
The order of the interviews will be determined by availability.
DISCLOSURE: The author was a member of the Town Manager Search Committee.