Last month the town council interviewed three well-qualified candidates for the upcoming town manager vacancy. (For more on those interviews, read my post Meet the 3 East Longmeadow Town Manger Finalists.) These finalists were chosen from a large pool of candidates which was reviewed by a screening committee set up by the council. The process took several months.

Despite this, the town council voted to delay choosing a new town manager in favor of extending the current manager’s tenure to late June of this year. (See my post East Longmeadow Councilors Extend Town Manger’s Contract Again, Keeping Job Finalists in Limbo.)

Things got even more uncertain yesterday when the councilors voted to start the town manager search over again; this time paying a private firm $9,950 to essentially redo a screening process that has already been completed.

The vote and its proposal are especially odd since it came without any prior public discussion. Nor was it announced on the council’s agenda.

To view the agenda for last night’s meeting, click the document below.

When the meeting reached the topic of “Old Business: Town Manager Search Update” on the agenda, council president Michael Kane stated that “old business’ would instead be “new business.” He then made the seemingly nonsensical proposal to

entertain a motion to approve funding in the amount of $9,950.

Initially the statement made no sense. Then, in what seemed to be a pre-planned effort, councilor Ralph Paige jumped in with a very detailed motion

So, Mike, I move to approve funding in the amount of $9,950 from ‘free cash’ to hire the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management for the purpose of a town manager search.

Without hesitation, councilor Donald Anderson seconded the motion.

However, councilor Connor O’Shea seemed surprised by the proposal and questioned how it could be made without any previous discussion.

I wonder how did we get to this position in the first place? We haven’t had a meeting since our last meeting last month and to my knowledge there was no discussion in any sort of public forum that we were seeking to do a new search, especially with a new firm. So how did we already come to this conclusion to start all over again and pay more money?

O’Shea argued that a thorough search has already been done and that starting over would be a “slap in the face” to the screening committee. He also noted that the decision to start over again would likely result in the town needing an interim town manager before a permanent manager could be seated.

In response, councilor Kane stated that the idea for the proposal came after his discussions with the town’s attorney. No mention was made of how Mr. Paige possessed all the details of the motion prior to the meeting.

To watch part of the exchange, click the video below.