Upset with treatment, Hull town manager ready to leave

By Johanna Seltz
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2011

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HULL — Town Manager Philip Lemnios said he’s leaving the job, upset with his treatment at a vitriolic Town Meeting earlier this month. But some in town say the longtime administrator could be persuaded to change his mind.

“I hope the man stays,’’ said Police Chief Richard Billings. “I’ve been with Phil as a patrolman and now as chief; I bargained against him as union president and now with him, and he’s the consummate gentleman, always looking out for the town of Hull. It would be a terrible loss if he actually followed through and left.’’

Lemnios announced on the second night of Town Meeting that he would not ask to renew his contract when it expired in June 2012. He had been lambasted by some speakers the previous night and complained that none of the members of the Board of Selectmen stepped forward to defend him.

One speaker had asked why Lemnios was still in his job, and several complained about his salary — $156,870, including benefits — especially in light of Hull’s challenging finances.

The town, which has a population of 11,840, has little industry and relies heavily on residential property taxes and state aid, which has fallen sharply in recent years.

Lemnios, who has declined to comment further on his decision, made his announcement after Town Meeting approved a resolution urging members to be more civil.

But Moderator Michael Nuesse said he didn’t think the Town Meeting rhetoric had been especially nasty.

“I thought people were pointed in their comments, but I didn’t think it was unusually harsh,’’ Nuesse said. “People in Hull like Town Meeting because they get to speak their mind. That’s what Town Meeting is all about. It’s a local legislature.’’

Domenico Sestito, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, said he wasn’t surprised at Lemnios’s announcement, although he was surprised at the timing.

“I would have preferred that he told the board first, but I think he reached his breaking point,’’ Sestito said. “He’s been through worse and he’s very thick-skinned. What’s put him over [the edge] is the negativity he’s getting from other members of the board.

“I won’t state names — I respect my colleagues — but we’ve had some debates where things were harsh,’’ he said.

Sestito, who is running for reelection, added that he supported Lemnios 100 percent and would try to persuade him to remain in Hull. He said Lemnios’s decision probably would be affected by the outcome of tomorrow’s election, in which four people are running for two seats on the board.

Selectman Dennis Blackall, who is not running for reelection, frequently tangled with Lemnios, whom he called “one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. I wish him the best in whatever he does.’’ He added, however, that “we need a new dimension to our budgeting’’ and that he supports candidate Alana Swiec for the open seat on the board.

Joseph Mahoney and Kevin Richardson also are running.

If Lemnios leaves Hull, if would be for the second time. He started as town manager in Hull in 1992 and left in 2003 to become town manager of Natick, where he lives. He returned to Hull in 2007 when Christopher McCabe retired and selectmen approached him with the job offer.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at