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NPSW board steadied by town managers
AREA — When a power struggle caused the Norway Paris Solid Waste (NPSW) board to be disbanded last year, Town Managers Phil Tarr and David Holt stepped in to keep the organization afloat.
Now, some citizens have raised concerns that it is time for Holt and Tarr to step down from the newly-reconstituted board, questioning whether the dual roles are compatible.
Tarr is the president of the NPSW board, while Holt is a member, along with Woodstock Town Manager Vern Maxfield. Tarr's one-year term is set to expire this summer.
During a meeting of the Paris Board of Selectmen, Selectwoman Jean Smart said that it was important for Tarr to keep his two roles separate.
Noting that mail associated with NPSW business was addressed to "Phil Tarr, town manager," she suggested that a muddling of the roles was possible.
"Your role on that board is not connected to your job as town manager, so it seems to me that perhaps these things should be addressed to you as chair of that board, not as town manager."
Paris board Chair Ray Glover says that, generally speaking, it would be better to keep the two roles separate.
"I agree that, under normal circumstances, a town manager should not be a member of a joint board of the two towns," said Glover. "That being said, it was the Board of Selectmen's opinion that the two Town Managers were needed to set a new course."
While Glover does not see a conflict of interest, he says the work of stabilizing a transition is nearly complete.
"I believe we all are now beginning to accept that the time to remove the Town Managers from the Board of Directors of Norway-Paris Solid Waste has come," said Glover.
Members of the board generally accept that the presence of the town managers has been greatly beneficial.
Janet Jamison, who was on the board when it was disbanded, said that she felt that the presence of the town managers was necessary to get them through the period of transition, and that she did not feel they needed to be removed.
Current NPSW board member Barbara Payne said that she had no problem with Holt and Tarr serving out their terms.
Norway Town Manager David Holt says that the rules governing potential conflicts of interest are well-defined by the International City Manager's Code of Ethics, which has been adopted by the Maine Town and City Managers' Association.
"A strict interpretation...takes a hard look at a manager's participation in groups and agencies," said Holt.
Holt says that he has had to be careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
"I have served on the Community Concepts Board of Directors and excused myself from fundraising activities," he said, "in order to not give people the wrong impression that the town was asking for money."
However, Holt says that the NPSW board, which operates under the authority of the two towns, is different.
"The select-boards chose to appoint Phil and me as board members and there are no legal reasons for us not to serve," he said.
Holt says that he's not sure what would motivate any concerns.
"I do not understand the motives of the few folks questioning our service but they are entitled to their opinion," said Holt. "As someone who puts a fair amount of consideration into issues like this, I believe that they are wrong."
David Stanley, who serves on the NPSW board, initiated a process to draft a conflict of interest for the board soon after it was reconstituted.
"The conflict of interest resolution that we passed was an appropriate one," said Stanley. Under the resolution, a majority of board members can vote to compel any individual to recuse themselves from action on a particular topic.
Stanley says that, while he was concerned generally about conflicts of interest, the presence of the town managers aren't a problem.
"There has not been any point at which I even thought of suggesting one of the town managers [recuse] themselves because of a conflict of interest," said Stanley.