Town Administrator Resigns in Adams
Ketcham's position with the town has been the subject of rumors since last week; town officials had sequestered themselves at least three times to discuss the embattled administrator's future.
Selectman Joseph R. Dean Jr. registered his disapproval with the process by breaking with the voting block of Chairman Joseph Solomon and Selectmen Edward MacDonald and Donald Sommer. Selectman Michael Ouellette was absent.
"I didn't like the process from beginning to end," said the longtime selectman afterward. "It was a waste of time and talent."
Neither board members nor Ketcham would comment on the reasons for his resignation nor whether he had been forced out of the job.
Solomon said the board had not received a written resignation letter but confirmed Ketcham's employment with the town ended effective Thursday. Town Counsel Edmund St. John III said, "I don't know you'll see a letter of resignation."
Former Town Administrator William F. Ketcham walks away.
After coming out of executive session, they voted to accept Ketcham's resignation and then to appoint Sommer as interim administrator.
Dean voted "no" to going into executive session and abstained on both votes taken after. "I just wanted people to know how I felt about the process," he said.
Ketcham was not in the meeting room. As the board met behind closed doors, he descended the stairs from his former office with a black folio in his hand. He waved to the small group waiting outside the doors and said, "See you around."
Outside Town Hall after the meeting, he declined to say anything about his reasons for resigning, or about what he would do with his newly free time.
"I'm afraid what I'm going to have to do to you is say, 'no comment,'" he said, and walked away.
Solomon said a search committee for a new administrator would be formed Oct. 1. Despite the town's difficulties in the past finding a chief officer, Solomon said he did not anticipate a problem, adding the process does take months.
"I'm actually excited to see who's out there," he said.
No evaluation had been completed on Ketcham's performance to date, though Solomon said it "was in the process."
Dean was unhappy with that lack of a report card and the prospect of months without a full-time administrator to steer the ship. He'd had to step into the position in the past: "Some things just don't get done."
Ketcham's tenure has been rocky at best. The Selectmen had tried to replace him last year after he decided to leave at the end of his three-year contract following a blistering evaluation. But the town found no serious takers and ended up asking Ketcham to stay. He was being paid $85,000 annually.
He had not been in his office for days and had met with the board in executive session on Monday.
Dean said he also could not comment on what had occurred behind closed doors other than to say the goal had been "to separate amicably."
Selectmen and St. John would not comment on whether Ketcham would be compensated for his early departure; he is one year into his second three-year contract.
The executive meeting minutes would not be released, said St. John, adding that that didn't necessarily mean negotiations were under way. "It just means that the entire process is protected by the nature of the confidentiality that arises in that process."
He declined to comment on whether there actually are continuing negotiations.
Update March 19, 2009: The Berkshire Eagle reports that executive session minutes were released by order of the secretary of state's office state Ketcham was paid $45,883 to sever his contract or face termination. The board also paid for Ketcham's trip to a conference in Virginia. A confidentiality clause was attached to the payments.