STANDISH — The recently fired Standish town manager is “laying low right now” and “pretty upset and disappointed about the way this all went down,” his attorney said this week.

The council voted 6-1 Monday to terminate manager Kris Tucker’s contract without cause, meaning he is entitled to severance and health care payments. Tucker had been on the job for less than eight months.

“The timing of all this was quite curious,” Tucker’s lawyer, Gregg Frame, said in an interview. “Something stinks.”

Frame also said that, before the vote to terminate him, the town initiated an outside investigation into allegations made against Tucker. He did not specify what the allegations were, but said the investigation exonerated Tucker.

Tucker was not present for Monday night’s meeting and has not commented publicly about the termination. Nesbitt said Tucker was placed on paid leave last Wednesday. The termination was effective Monday night, he said.

Frame said legal action is “certainly an option,” but added it is “premature to say we’re going to litigate this case.”

Council Chairman Steven Nesbitt said during the meeting Monday that he could not go into the reasoning behind the termination because it is a personnel matter.

Kris Tucker’s contract as Standish town manager required the town to pay him a lump-sum severance.

“The best I can address that at this time is we performed Mr. Tucker’s six-month evaluation, the Town Council has had several discussions, and we feel it’s best to part ways at this time,” Nesbitt said.

The town has denied requests from the Portland Press Herald and Lakes Region Weekly for records related to the evaluation and termination, saying the documents contain confidential personnel information or do not exist.

The lone councilor who voted against firing Town Manager Kris Tucker on Monday said Tuesday the termination was “a total snow job.”

Councilor Peter Starostecki said by phone Tuesday morning he believes other members of the council and staff at Town Hall view Tucker “as a detriment to the status quo.”

“I’m pretty upset about it,” said Starostecki, who called Tucker a “terrific town manager.”

Responding to Starostecki’s comments Tuesday, Nesbitt said that he respects everyone’s opinion but does not agree with Starostecki’s characterization of the termination. Nesbitt said the action was “in the best interest of the town in the long term.”

“My job is to think of the town as a whole,” Nesbitt said.

Other than brief remarks Monday night from Nesbitt, which came in response to questions from the auidence, none of the councilors made comments before the vote.

Resident Myke Russell asked if taxpayers would “get to know what’s going on” and added that “it’s a lot of money” to go through the process of finding a new manager.

“I understand the frustration, but due to the personnel nature, we must keep it confidential,” Nesbitt said.

“It’s just very frustrating for us, only knowing what we do know, which isn’t very much,” said resident Kathy Johnson. “To think that somebody was doing a good job – what we see, seems to be doing a good job – and then (we) just get sort of left out with nothing for information.”

Frame said the town initiated a third party review, conducted by human resources professional Deb Whitworth, into allegations made against Tucker.

Frame had not yet obtained a copy of the review’s findings, and would not specify what the allegations were, but said that “the investigation completely exonerated Kris.”

Both Whitworth and Nesbitt declined to comment when asked to confirm that the third party review took place. Whitworth referred the question to the town’s law firm.

A call to Dunn, the town’s attorney, was not immediatly returned. She had no comment when approached by a reporter Monday night.

Tucker had been town manager since December, when he took over for longtime manager Gordy Billington.

The council voted 5-2 last October to hire Tucker over another finalist for the job. Tucker previously worked as the director of economic and community development in Northampton, Virginia, and is originally from New Hampshire.

“Kris was brought in to affect change,” Frame said, noting that Tucker’s efforts to bring changes to how the town is run “definitely chafed the old guard there.”

Tucker’s contract allows the town to terminate his employment without cause, but the town must pay him a lump sum severance equal to three months salary. Tucker’s initial yearly salary was $100,000. Under the contract, the town is also required to maintain Tucker’s health insurance plan for a period of three months.

The council has appointed Public Works Director Roger Mosley and Finance Director Scott Gesualdi as co-acting town managers.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Read this story in the Lakes Region Weekly.

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