Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

February 28, 2013

Consultants helping with many new hires

Community leaders should give some thought as to whether its time to limit the number of outside consultants they use.

Andover spent $15,000 on an “assessment center” to evaluate three internal candidates for police chief. This program put the chief candidates in real-life situations and gauged their responses to them. Those involved say the approach is quite effective at showing how candidates react to challenges.

The town also used an assessment center to help the town manager pick Donna Walsh as the Andover finance director. In fact, outside groups have been used to create the final tests for previous fire chiefs and, we assume, other positions dating back at least to when current police Chief Brian Pattullo went through his own assessment center.

After more than 20 years in the job, perhaps Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski or another longtime town leader has picked up some information on the approach used by the consultants, and could create their own assessment.

At least those involved with the $15,000 assessment of the police-chief candidates seem to think it was a valuable exercise. Residents may remember last year when current and former officials lambasted the work of an outside consultant who was paid $25,000 to help the town manager figure out how to combine the Public Works and Plant & Facilities departments. Even Stapczynski admitted none of the recommendations “in my estimation are earth-shattering. A lot of it we knew about.”

That wasn’t the first time the town has seemed to throw money at a consultant rather than relying on those paid or elected to perform analysis and take action. In 2010, the town paid $8,500 to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to assist with its superintendent search. That group came up with four people, two who had worked as assistant superintendents in Andover, and two who had applied for several jobs in communities surrounding Andover. In other words, the $8,500 consultant provided the town with no candidates Andover wouldn’t have quite easily found on it own.

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