Former Quincy Mayor William J. Phelan has been offered the position of town administrator in Holbrook, but his contract hinges on whether he and selectmen can agree on how Phelan, who has an active law practice in Quincy, will divide his time.
Phelan intends to continue practicing law, as he has since March, when he began serving as Holbrook’s interim town administrator. The selectmen are willing to allow him flexible hours, but some have questioned whether Phelan can predict what hours he will spend in town.
Phelan cannot merely “squeeze us in between court dates,” Selectman Matthew Moore said.
The board wants Phelan to post some or all of his hours a week in advance, so Town Hall employees and the public know when they can find him. During deliberations on Tuesday, they did not immediately agree on how many hours he should post.
“I think we need more structure than we’ve had over the last six months or so,” said Timothy Gordon, chairman of the board. He and other members said they had no reservations about the amount of effort Phelan expends for the town, adding they only seek transparency and disclosure.
The board voted 5-0 to select Phelan. At the close of the meeting, he initially declined to comment, but when pressed on the issue of posting hours, he said the town “definitely deserves accountability.”
The board also decided 3-0, with two abstentions, to select David J. Marciello, also an attorney, as a second choice in the event that they do not come to an agreement with Phelan.
Marciello was town administrator in Rehoboth from 2001 (cq) until this year, departing after a divided Board of Selectmen voted not to renew his contract.
Selectman Richard McGaughey, (cq) one of the members who abstained, warned the board they could lose Phelan if they named a second choice. If Holbrook were the Red Sox, he said, he would rather have Jacoby Ellsbury play three games a week than a less desirable player play every game.
“We have a winner, and I would hate to lose a winner,” he said.
Further, McGaughey said he did not want to label the other finalist, Avon Selectman Francis A. “Frank” Hegarty, as a third-place finisher. Selectman Kevin Sheehan (cq) abstained as well.
Selectmen lauded Phelan for his hard work in the interim job, his experience running a city of over 92,000, and his knowledge of state government. Phelan was elected mayor of Quincy in 2001, (cq) lost the seat to Thomas P. Koch in 2007, then tried unsuccessfully to regain the seat in 2009.
After Moore called for a “fresh way of thinking” in the new administrator, McGaughey said the town already has that in Phelan.
“I think we are seeing the new way of doing things,” he said. “I’m very thankful that he’s squeezing us in.”
Though Moore ranked Marciello at the top, he later voted in favor of the unanimous motion to select Phelan.
Contract negotiations are expected to begin in the next few days. Town Meeting appropriated a salary of $76,400 for this fiscal year.
Jennette Barnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.