Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski recused himself last week from a Board of Selectmen’s meeting held to discuss the search for his replacement after he revealed that his wife is a consultant for one of the three companies bidding on the search contract.
The revelation prompted a lengthy debate by selectmen, who decided that the quest for a search company needed to be widened to include national companies, not just regional or local ones.
“We want to make sure we get the best town manager candidate,” Selectman Paul Salafia said. “This is a huge decision. Our end goal is the best candidate; out of that, we need the best search firm.
“In the next few years, we have very critical decisions to make and we have to give ourselves every opportunity to get the best possible town manager.”
Human Resources Director Candace Hall said she would email 15 or 20 other companies to see if there is interest from firms outside New England to help Andover find a new town manager.
Stapczynski announced last month he was stepping down as of June 30 after nearly 30 years on the job.
Selectmen are scheduled to meet again Monday morning to review any additional responses from potential consultants, at which point they will decide which firms to interview as candidates to help conduct the search.
‘Appearance of conflict’
Stapczynski told selectmen last Thursday morning that his wife owns a company called Human Resources Services Inc. According to the company’s website, HRS was founded by Sandy Stapczynski and is involved in “management consulting services to local government in areas of human resources and general management.”
The town manager said his wife’s company has a “business relationship” with Municipal Resources Inc., one of the three companies that responded to a recent request for quotes, or RFQs, seeking executive search firms to help the town look for a new town manager.
The revelation prompted Selectman Alex Vispoli to declare that MRI should be disqualified for bidding on the search contract.
“We should probably rule these folks out so it’s absolutely clear there is no conflict of interest,” he said during the 7 a.m. meeting.
But Selectman Brian Major, speaking from a remote location over speaker phone, disagreed.
“I think we should give them due diligence and see how they compare to the others,” he said.
Selectman Mary O’Donoghue said this week that she agrees with Vispoli.
“Any company where there is any perceived conflict of interest should be disqualified,” she said. “I believe in this case there is a perceived conflict. As a result of that, they ought to be disqualified.”
Selectmen Chairman Dan Kowalski asked Hall why she had limited her search to just a handful of local companies.
“We sent it (the RFQ) to New England-based firms,” Hall said. “The other executive search firms are in California, Illinois, Texas and Florida. There are probably another 15 to 20 firms. We sent it to three in New England, plus one ... out of Illinois. These are the folks who will have a handle on local talent. (Going out of the region) the cost will be higher.”
When selectmen started to discuss the search firms more specifically, Stapczynski got up and left the meeting, directing the individual taking minutes to note for the record that he was recusing himself.
Police chief’s hiring
Stapczynski made an almost identical disclosure in 2012 during the search for a new police chief when MRI applied to run the process of reviewing candidates for the job.
According to a letter to selectmen in 2012, Stapczynski said his wife “has a business relationship” with the company and that “because of the appearance of a conflict (of interest), I will not be participating in the Review Committee nor will I make the final decision as to the selection of the consulting firm.”
Instead, he delegated that role to Assistant Town Manager Steve Bucuzzo.
Stapczynski said in the 2012 letter: “This disclosure does not affect my ability to work with the selected consultant, nor does it affect my appointing authority for the new chief.”
In the end, Municipal Resources Inc. was hired to conduct the search for a new chief, who ended up being an in-house candidate, Sgt. Patrick Keefe.
In the more recent case, Stapczynski said in a Jan. 29 letter to selectmen that while his wife’s firm has a “business relationship” with MRI, it “is not involved in recruitment and selection work.”
In fact, his wife’s website states that “her experience covers a wide range of activities including compensation and classification development, performance management, retention, staffing reviews, HRS audits and assessments, recruitment/selection and more.”
This week, Stapczynski filed another letter this week stating that his wife’s company “does recruitment and selection work from time to time.” The Feb. 3 letter goes on to say that MRI is not using his wife’s company as part of its proposal to Andover.
“HRS will not do any work for the town of Andover and will not have any financial interest in this matter,” he wrote in the most recent letter to selectmen. He went on to stress that “I have no role nor will I participate in the process of selecting the consulting firm, and as a result, I do not have any financial interest in this matter.”
But, he said, “This disclosure does not affect my ability to work, if required, with the selected consultant.”
Given that selectmen have until June 30, Stapczynski’s last day on the job, to pick a new town manager, the delay in choosing a search firm shouldn’t affect the timeline, Kowalski said.
“It will delay us one week from where we would have otherwise been,” he said. “The most important thing is getting the best town manager for the town of Andover. Who knows, maybe there’s a search firm in Minnesota interested in doing this.”
Vispoli agreed, saying an extra week is worth it.
“Picking a new town manager is the most important decision this Board of Selectmen will ever make,” he said. “All five of us recognize the importance of doing it right and proceeding with a defined and definitive process.”
In addition to putting out the call for search firms, the town also placed a notice in two national publications alerting potential town manager candidates of the opening in Andover.
Hall said that five people responded to the ad. Assistant Town Manager Bucuzzo said he was mulling it over.
“I’m still considering it,” he said. “That’s all I have to say at this time.”