A simmering dispute over leadership styles and the future of Windham’s town manager heated up this week and shows no signs of a quick resolution.

The main division is between council Chairwoman Donna Chapman and Councilors Jarrod Maxfield and Timothy Nangle, who say the council chair is trying to force out Tony Plante, the town’s longtime manager.

Chapman has criticized the way the town has been managed under Plante, specifically mentioning the town’s dispute with the union representing Public Works Department employees.

Chapman has accused Maxfield and Nangle of taping executive sessions. The pair has denied that allegation and countered that Chapman has breached the confidentiality of the what are supposed to be private meetings by talking about them in public.

The simmering feud has been on public display in recent council meetings at which the three have traded barbs.

“This isn’t Donald Trump’s fantasy boardroom where she gets to say,’You’re fired,’ ” Nangle said at Tuesday’s meeting of Chapman’s alleged attempts to get rid of Plante.

“She’ll attack anyone who disagrees with her or her agenda,” he added during the “councilors’ comments” portion of the meeting. Two other councilors made brief remarks Tuesday but neither got involved deeply in the fray.

None of the three pointed to any major policy disputes that divide them other than Plante’s future. Plante, who is out of town, did not attend Tuesday’s council meeting and attempts to reach him for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Maxfield said he thinks the problems have festered for a while.

“These are vindictive vendettas” on Chapman’s part, “that go back maybe 10 years,” he said.

“For people paying attention in Windham, this has been a joke,” Maxfield continued. “I call it busybody politics. This attack on the town manager was the last straw.”

Chapman said that she thinks the council should decide Plante’s future and pointed to disputes with the union representing Public Works department workers. She also complained about the slow pace of plans to clean up the town’s watershed and preserve open space as reasons for her unhappiness with the town’s management.

“Managers that are hired for life is wrong,” she said. But she denied Maxfield’s and Nangle’s accusations that she recently presented Plante with a “retire or be fired” ultimatum. Chapman said she mentioned those as among the options for Plante to consider as the council discusses his future, although she added that she would prefer he retire.

A formal move to fire Plante hasn’t come before the council. It would require the votes of five of the seven councilors and Maxfield and Nangle say it could lead to a lawsuit if Plante contends he was fired without cause.

Some of the differences are rooted in two management reviews of town operations, which together cost more than $30,000.

The first said that stronger leadership, better communication, more accountability and trust are needed in the Public Works Department, and it laid out an action plan for addressing those issues.

But the union representing the publics works employees disagreed with the proposal and called on the council to get involved. Some of the employees expressed no confidence in the department and town leaders.

The council followed up with another management review, but Nangle said the second report merely reiterated the findings of the first, while Chapman said both reviews found issues that need to be addressed in town management.

Chapman said the Windham council’s troubles reflect a coarsening public discourse, where personal attacks are substituted for discussions of policy options.

“This, to me, is dirty politics or nasty politics,” she said. “It’s like what you see down in Washington, coming down to the local level. I feel it’s unfortunate and sad.”

Chapman said she hopes to work through the issues, but Maxfield and Nangle suggested that different options.

Maxfield said he’s ready to “hit the reset button” and deal with town issues, but he sees no inclination by Chapman to do so. Instead, he said, voters could decide the issue next year by re-electing him and voting out Chapman.

Nangle, who is running for re-election unopposed this year, said the problems could be resolved if Chapman resigned.

She rejected that suggestion.

“I work for the voters and sometimes we go through difficult times, but we get through them,” she said. Instead, Chapman said, she intends to keep doing her job “while this ugliness resolves itself.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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