NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 16, 2014

Town manager awarded new contract

SALISBURY — Selectmen voted to renew Town Manager Neil Harrington’s contract for another three years, extending his tenure to 2016.

Selectmen approved a contract that will pay Harrington $106,087 for the fiscal year starting July 1, with 3 percent raises for the next two years, equally $109,270 as of July 1, 2015 and $112,548, as of July 1, 2016. The rate of increase is the same as the raises selectmen approved in contracts for the town’s employee unions and other contracted employees.

Harrington, 57, is an 11-year veteran town manager in Salisbury, taking over on May 19, 2003 with a salary of $75,000. He was the former four-term mayor of Salem prior to taking over in Salisbury.

At the recent selectmen’s meeting when Harrington’s contract was approved, only Selectman Ed Hunt spoke against keeping him on.

“For the past several years, I believe your decision-making has been questionable and costly to our town,” Hunt said. “I will vote no to renewing your contract.”

Selectman Freeman Condon took issue with Hunt’s remarks, saying it was “absurd” for anyone to insinuate Harrington is not looking out for the best interest of the town. Condon said Harrington puts in long hours, usually well beyond the 37.5 he’s required, often working in his office until 7 at night.

“Neil Harrington is competent; I believe he is truthful, and I know he’s a hard worker,” Condon said. “Neil Harrington is conscientious, he’s capable and he’s totally dedicated to Salisbury. Like me, he’s a human being, and as a human being he’s made mistakes. But, when I’ve taken issues to him, Neil has acted immediately and satisfactorily.”

With no other selectmen speaking up, Chairman Henry Richenburg call the vote, resulting in a 4-1 decision.

According to its Town Charter, Salisbury has a strong town manager form of government, and the amount of authority Harrington wields has made some in town bristle. This past year has found Harrington involved in some controversies that resulted in decisive management decisions, such as his effort to replace the entire Board of Health, and to not renew the contract of Building Inspector David Lovering. Some members of the Board of Health are suing the town for creating a hostile work environment.

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