September 14, 2022:
The Town of Norwich, like everywhere else, is dealing with uncertainty and change after two years of making things work in the context of a pandemic and its aftermath. We have experienced turnover in nearly all our departments, particularly in the Public Works and the Police Departments. Staff have taken on increased workloads and have handled multiple jobs. Management has begun the work of addressing longstanding structural problems. We have had staff settle into new positions and we continue to fill and advertise vacancies. In addition to paid staff, town government in Tracy Hall operates with elected officials.
In April the Board recognized the need to successfully integrate new town employees, develop shared understandings of leadership hierarchies, and improve the workplace culture for all staff in general. The Town hired Mark Heyman of HR Happens to interview staff and to provide the Town Manager with recommendations and informed analysis on how to strengthen and improve the Town’s ability to recruit and retain employees. No report or presentation has been offered to the Board to date.
In May the town’s attorneys hired an independent investigator stemming from employee conversations with HR Happens. In a confidential presentation to the Board, the investigation determined that no violations of law or town policies had occurred. Human Resource issues are subject to privacy provisions and the nature of those complaints is not something we can comment on.
The Selectboard’s job as it relates to personnel relations is to set expectations for the Town and review progress on achieving clearly defined goals. The Board supports the work of our town manager in his direct oversight of town staff and in managing day-to-day operations. The Board wishes to provide tangible means of support to staff and to review policies and systems, establishing expectations for successful interactions between both elected officials and paid staff.
Town employees do not forfeit some right to privacy in their pursuits simply by virtue of public employment. The Selectboard typically will not comment on, confirm, or corroborate rumors of any kind. We ask for citizens to please be conscientious and avoid disseminating misinformation in their correspondence to the Board and other public forums.
The Board moves:
- To direct Mary Layton, Vice Chair, to arrange meetings with Elected Officials, including the Listers, Treasurer, and Town Clerk, to get feedback on any concerns or recommendations for greater collaboration between elected officials and paid town staff.
- To hire a consultant for the purposes of collaborative team building between paid town staff and elected officials no later than March 2023, the deadline of which is reflective and dependent on current availability for this type of work.