READFIELD — Posted above the desk of Town Manager Stefan Pakulski are nine pages listing 153 names.
While the pages resemble a petition, organizers call it an opinion survey. The top of each page says, “We the undersigned residents of Readfield Maine do not support the renewal of the current town manager’s contract by the selectboard.”
The signatures were shown to the Select Board Jan. 27. A few days later, the board voted 3-1 to sign Pakulski to a new 18 month contract, giving him a salary of $63,386 in the first year. Pakulski has been town manager since November.
Sue Reay, chairman of the selectmen, recused herself from negotiating and from voting on the contract. She is co-owner with her husband, Lenny Reay, of Reay Excavation & Trucking, a business on Route 17 a few miles from the Town Office.
Lenny Reay, whose name is among those opposing the contract renewal and who says he helped organize the signing, has a pending formal complaint against Pakulski.
Reay said he asked at a Dec. 2 meeting of the select board, “Who sent the messenger to tell Steve McGee not to use materials from my pit?”
Reay said he had hired McGee Construction of West Gardiner to do some crushing in his gravel pit, and McGee was going to use some of the crushed stone on a project to build a mile-long sidewalk between the Town Office and the Maranacook Community School.
“Steve and I make the decision and a contract between two of us to bring the crusher into my gravel pit to crush for him and for me,” Reay said, “and the town manager sends word down by his maintenance man to have Mr. McGee buy material elsewhere.”
While one board member agreed to look into Reay’s complaint, a second board member later told him he would have to file a formal complaint, which Reay did.
Pakulski on Monday said he is not allowed to comment on the complaint.
Reay said Monday that Pakulski “used his authority as town manager to interfere in a contract between Steven McGee and myself.”
He said he believes that Pakulksi has a vendetta against him and his firm “because I have been very vocal in getting the town to eliminate the public works department of the town and proposed public works building.”
“It’s pretty much a proven fact that contractors’ services is cheaper than having a public works’ department,” Reay said. He has opposed formation of town and regional public works department as far back as 2008.
The board has held one meeting in executive session to try to resolve Reay’s complaint, and a second meeting is set for Tuesday night.
Reay said he could not reveal what was discussed during those sessions.
However, he provided some background about his complaint.
McGee was the successful bidder on the project and built the town sidewalk in 2012 for $692,000. Reay said no materials for that project came from his pit.
“I haven’t worked for the town of Readfield for eight years,” Reay said. “One of the reasons is the town manager and I don’t see eye to eye.”
Seth McGee, speaking for the firm since Steve McGee, his father, is out of town, said Monday, “I’ve already given my information to the town and I would rather not make any comment.”
McGee holds the snow and ice control contract with Readfield, receiving $248,000 in this second year of the contract.
Reay said his pit is permitted “for me to haul, make gravel and sell to outside people if I choose. There’s no restrictions on my pit through (the Department of Environmental Protection) or the Town of Readfield.”
Eric Conrad, director of education and communications for Maine Municipal Association, which advocates on behalf of member municipalities, said he could not comment on individual cases and that the procedure for handling formal complaints can vary among municipalities.
“It’s very tough to be a town and city manager these days,” Conrad said. “It’s tough to make a decision that makes everybody happy whether it’s citizens in the town or town employees. These are very tough jobs.”
Conrad said towns have flexibility when deciding how to handle the complaints.
“However, any municipal employee — manager or otherwise — is entitled by law to things like due process and the right to privacy, unless he or she waives the latter,” he said.
Reay said he is representing himself in the complaint and is disappointed the town is using its attorney.
“I said in public I would like this handled in house,” he said. “I don’t want to cost the town any money in attorney’s fees. The first thing they did was run to the attorney.”
Reay said the situation can be delicate because of his wife’s role as chairman.
“My wife and I have worked together 25 years in business and married 39 years this week,” Reay said. “She actually had to tell me to leave the last meeting at the selectmen’s meeting. I left. When she comes out, she says, âIs everything all right?'”
He said he told her, “Everything’s fine. I’d only be mad at you if you hadn’t done your job.”
Reay added, “We’re certainly not going to let this come between us.”