EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 17, 2008

Group wants to cut town administrator's job

ATKINSON - Town Administrator Russell McAllister could be out of a job in March.

A citizens petition calls for the elimination of the town administrator's post and a return to a selectmen's clerk. It was submitted by Leon Artus and his Atkinson Taxpayers For Fair Evaluations Committee.

"I had filed a complaint against him because he wasn't forthcoming with information," Artus said. "He set up a hostile work environment. He isn't bearing his load or earning his money."

Voters approved establishing the administrator's job in 2004.

McAllister earned $62,005 in 2006. The warrant article proposes paying the selectmen's clerk $48,000 a year to start. If passed, the article would eliminate McAllister's job within 30 days.

But McAllister said yesterday it might not take voter approval to get him out.

"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "When you go after someone, who says they'll stay?"

McAllister said he was sorry he upset Artus by doing his job, but he probably hasn't upset enough people to have the warrant article go anywhere.

"Let them vote me off the island," he said. "When they disagree with someone else, they can vote them off, too. Everyone has to do their job, and sometimes that makes people angry."

Artus, however, said he submitted the petition because McAllister isn't doing his job. He said he submitted a right-to-know request and McAllister told him he'd have to "set up (his own) generator to provide power to scan all the documents."

There are a number of things McAllister isn't doing and it's costing the town money, Artus said. He wouldn't specify what those tasks were, saying he was saving it for the deliberative session.

That's a day to which McAllister also is looking forward to. He said he plans to "demand some respect" publicly.

Selectmen's Chairman Jack Sapia said he believes the town administrator position is necessary and requires someone with a range of expertise.

"I know the residents will look at that from a common sense perspective," he said. "I would ask the residents to ask themselves, what was the motivating factor for this warrant article. Is it personal in nature? Would it be best for one person or would it be best for the town?"

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