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Watertown City Council won’t review city manager’s contract

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In a move they acknowledged was brewing for months, City Council members decided Tuesday night that they will not renew the contract of City Manager Mary M. Corriveau.

Yet it was still a surprise when the Watertown City Council voted, 3-2, not to give Mrs. Corriveau a new contract. Her current agreement expires April 30.

After a nearly hourlong executive session, council members Jeffrey M. Smith, Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Roxanne M. Burns voted against giving her a new contract.

“It’s really best for all parties,” Mr. Smith said afterward in a telephone interview.

Saying “it was a personnel matter,” Mr. Smith declined to spell out the exact reasons for the decision to end Mrs. Corriveau’s career with city. He did mention that some of those problems were expressed in previous job reviews, acknowledging that they had complaints of communication issues with her over the years.

In explaining why the matter came up Tuesday night, Mr. Smith said it was “to protect the city” from having to pay her six months severance pay.

According to her contract, they had until Feb. 1 to inform the city manager of their decision or she would have been entitled to about $51,000 in severance pay, he said.

Contacted in her office initially, an emotional Mrs. Corriveau declined to comment, while she was discussing what had just happened with longtime co-worker, City Attorney Robert J. Slye. Later, she called a reporter with a brief comment.

“I did not take any action tonight. Council did. I have nothing to say,” she said, referring the media to council members for further comment and for an explanation of their decision.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Graham, who was joined by Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso in voting against the resolution, said that he was not surprised by the action, saying that it was in the works “for some time.”

He knew beforehand that Mr. Butler and Mr. Smith planned to draft the resolution and to introduce it Tuesday night.

Still, Mr. Graham said that he had hoped that something could have been worked out to allow Mrs. Corriveau stay in her $102,802 per-year position until she retired, since it was just a few years away.

Ms. Macaluso heard last week that the move was in the works — and that there would not be enough support to save the city manager’s job.

“I knew they had the votes,” Ms. Macaluso said later. “I feel she was doing a great job, so I’m disappointed.”

Mr. Smith said that it will be up to council to decide what comes next. So far, council members have not discussed the process of finding Mrs. Corriveau’s replacement, he said. They could take several routes, such as hiring an interim city manager until a new one could be found or seeing if Mrs. Corriveau would stay on a temporary basis, he added.

During the past several months, some council members criticized Mrs. Corriveau for not knowing about major accounting and bookkeeping discrepancies in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for failing to send out tens of thousands of dollars in bills to department users and customers for years.

As a result, the council decided to restructure the department and approve a series of policies and procedures to prevent the billing and collection problems from happening anymore. But council members had also blamed Mrs. Corriveau two months ago when she was unable to move quick enough to find a new management team for the department.

In her last job review nearly two years ago, Mrs. Corriveau scored an average 3.5 out of a possible 5 on all fields and was praised by all council members on her fiscally conservative approach to union negotiations and preparing the budget. But she also consistently received low grades for her communication with the council and following through with the group’s initiatives, areas in which she has been criticized before.

Mr. Butler and Ms. Burns could not be reached for comment.

Mrs. Corriveau joined the city government in 1985, was named assistant to the city manager in 1993 and became city manager in 2003.

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