Town reopening DPW Superintendent search

The selected finalist rejected the position; Select Board is engaging a recruiter

Last night, the Select Board announced that the finalist they had selected for Southborough Public Works Superintendent has decided to stay where he is.

Phil McNulty, Stoughton’s Water & Sewer Superintendent, rejected the position. Now, the Select Board is working out details of a contract with an experienced municipal recruiter.

The Select Board had extended an offer and was in the middle of negotiating an agreement with McNulty. They were scheduled to vote on it the morning of January 23rd.

According to Chair Kathy Cook, McNulty emailed the board members two days prior to that meeting. He notified them he wasn’t taking the job and provided two reasons.

The first was that he didn’t want the Select Board to “settle” for him (with quotation marks). Cook followed to fellow members, “I think we know where that came from.”

Earlier in January, I posted news of the hiring selection under the headline “Select Board Settles for Stoughton’s Water & Sewer Super as New DPW Head” with the subhead “Board agreed neither finalist was perfect for Southborough’s needs but that that supporting a solid candidate’s growth was less risky than going back out to market”.

The second reason that Cook cited was that Stoughton talked him out of it.

It’s worth noting (as I had previously posted), McNulty was selected to be Falmouth’s Water Superintendent in September 2020. He never ended up taking that gig either, instead remaining in Stoughton. (In December of 2020, they voted to hire another candidate. In that meeting, they only referred to a long search, and made no mention of a previously selected candidate.)

At last night’s meeting, the Board discussed a contract with recruiter Bernie Lynch to help them fill the job.

Earlier in the hiring process, member Sam Stivers had suggested that engaging Lynch might be beneficial. At that time, the Board decided to avoid what they perceived would be a large cost (percentage of first year’s salary).

They had also worried that pursuing a recruiter could delay their ability to fill the job before (or soon after) the outgoing Superintendent’s last day in early January. 

The board agreed in the fall to have Town Administrator Mark Purple reach out to Lynch to lay the groundwork (in parallel) for a potential future contract if they ended up needing to go that route.

Last night Stivers restated his hope that Lynch’s long experience and relationships with municipalities across the state will be of value to the Town. Stivers opined that their best bet might be someone who wasn’t actively looking for a job but who Lynch could convince to take an interest in the position.

The discussed contract (at the end of the meeting packet) didn’t require a commission be paid based on salary. Instead it was for $9,000 to do the recruiting work. (That is separate from any advertising costs.) 

$6,000 would be paid for the first five phases of recruiting, including proactive outreach to potential candidates and reviewing resumes to select candidates for interviews. The final $3,000 would be for work involved in the interview process, including assisting with interview to select finalist(s) for presentation to the Select Board.

Member Chelsea Malinowski wondered if the final payment should require that a candidate sign a contract. She didn’t want to pay $9K and end up back in the same position again.

There was some conjecture that the low rate in the contract was because it didn’t require a new hire to be secured. Town Administrator Mark Purple was asked to find out if the requirement could be included or what the additional criteria would cost.

At the meeting, a commenter (who didn’t state his name), suggested that the contract should require successfully bringing forward multiple finalists. Stivers worried that if the Town pushes too hard in this difficult hiring climate, Lynch might decide the contract isn’t worth his time.

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