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Sisitsky criticizes evaluation holdout Saturday, August 9, 2003
D. Craig MacCormack Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The selectmen's vice chairwoman yesterday got support for her decision to wait before turning in her review of the town manager until she had all the information she asked for on the water and sewer enterprise fund.

But, as the 5 p.m. deadline passed without Ginger Esty's evaluation of Town Manager George King, two board members took Esty to task for her stance.

"Each selectman has to make up their own mind on how they want to deal with the evaluation," said Chairman Charles Sisitsky.  "I'm saddened and disappointed that this is the way Mrs. Esty has chosen to deal with this.

"It's obvious she has some issues with George, but to say she can't get information from him is a weak excuse for not doing the evaluation.  There's plenty of room for her on the evaluation form to indicate that," he said.

Selectman Chris Ross, who joins Katie Murphy on the policy subcommittee, said the evaluation will be on the Aug. 21 agenda.

"It's unfortunate (Esty) decided not to participate," he said.  "Even if she has some issues with the town manager, she could have reflected her unhappiness within the evaluation process.

"I hope she would now respect the process and she doesn't think she now has a platform to make that evaluation independently.  I don't think that'd be fair.  It's supposed to be a composite of all the members' opinions," he said.

Esty rebuffed a request from fellow Selectman Esther Hopkins on Thursday night to turn in the review with an indication she is still waiting for information from King.

"I'm going to stand with my position," Esty said.  "This is not the only item I've been stonewalled on.  It's just the one I've chosen to stand on.  Esther was trying to build a bridge, but the flood has washed out the bridge."

Esty also had trouble getting information from King on a discrepancy with the Tercentennial account, the Downtown Common and the number of Section 8 houses owned by the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, she said.

King started his vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment.  Esty wants information about billing, collections and abatements with the water and sewer enterprise funds for the past several years, she said.

"It would show the true picture of the management of the enterprise funds," said Esty.  "There's some reason the manager would say the release of those figures would be punitive.

"When it comes to the MWRA, they send us a bill.  The thing about water and sewer is it's all metered.  It's not hard to know at all," she said.

Esty is making her personal feelings for King too public in this case, Sisitsky said.  By doing so, she is not fulfilling her duty as a selectman.

"The information is available, but the format she wants it in isn't readily available," he said.  "Getting it and compiling it in the format she wants takes a while.  I can understand George's frustration."

Frank Reilly, a longtime member of the standing committee on Public Works, said he sees Esty's request as something that's long overdue.  Complaints about the enterprise funds' management stretches back to its inception in 1992.

"We've never been able to get an actual amount billed," he said.  "There may be millions that's unaccounted for because of billing practices.  I don't know why we're having all these problems, but I think George inherited it.

"We get a bill, we pay a bill.  All you do is look at a bill.  It's not at all complicated.  I think (King) is really afraid of what the figures are and how to explain them.  It's going to be a major bomb," he said.

Finance Committee Chairman John Zucchi supported Esty's actions.

"Selectmen have the responsibility of managing the town manager and to make sure he's managing to their expectations," he said.  "They have the right to ask for things and expect that they'll be provided expeditiously."

Esty's stance is the latest in a series of providing the contrarian view.

"It makes others wonder how effective she can be when she's the odd man out all the time," Sisitsky said.  "Instead of freelancing on her own, I'd like to see her try to work with the board so every vote isn't 4-1."

Ross said there will be no more deadline extensions and the review will be given without Esty's input.  The composite evaluation will be prepared using comments from the other four members.

"We stretched it a little to include everyone, but unfortunately that didn't happen," said Ross.  "I think people were expecting it (Thursday) and were a little disappointed.  I don't think we can string them out any more."

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