By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 3, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The town is close to bringing on a new director of the Public Works Department to replace John Price, who resigned over a month ago because he was tired of working under what he called "constant backstabbing" conditions.
Selectmen Chairman Richard Nichols said Thursday a candidate to replace Price is selected but board members need to finalize a contract and conduct a background check on the individual before an official announcement is made.
Sources have said the town has offered the position to Keith Noyes, who previously served as the public works director in Exeter until he was terminated from the job in 2007.
Selectman Mike Pierce confirmed the board did make an offer to Noyes.
The town had received more than 20 candidate applications from all over the country for the job opening. Officials narrowed down the field to three finalists, each who were called in for an interview.
Pierce said the board sat in on the interviews to ensure the town hired the right candidate for the position.
"Since there were previous concerns with the public regarding public works, we wanted to make sure, as well as we could, that we had input into the final decision and we did," Pierce said.
Pierce said Noyes was a standout candidate.
Noyes' termination in Exeter came several weeks after a lawsuit between the town of Exeter and former Water and Sewer Superintendent Victoria Del Greco had been resolved.
Del Greco filed a wrongful termination suit against the town after she was told that her position would be eliminated to make way for a newly created utility superintendent.
She claimed she was retaliated against after she reported another town employee for violating the town's computer usage policy.
At the same time, she filed a charge with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights claiming gender discrimination.
Pierce said the board was made aware of Noyes' history in Exeter.
"He was very forthcoming, and in my mind that made him stand out," Pierce said. "When it comes to exactly what happened, I will never know. But looking at the outside, it looks like the usual small-town politics."
The search for a new public works director comes on the heels of Price resigning during the April 25 selectmen's meeting. Price tendered his resignation stating, "working under constant backstabbing is nerve-racking to say the least."
His resignation came a week after Budget Committee member Mary-Louise Woolsey expressed concerns to selectmen about the atmosphere at the public works department under Price's management. Woolsey said public works employees were being bullied, intimidated and treated poorly, and believed that if something didn't change, she feared it could result in "physical violence," she said.
Meanwhile, the town has hired Chris Jacobs to serve as the new deputy director of public works.
That $75,000-a-year position, which is new, was created as part of the reorganization of the public works department.
Welch said Jacobs previously served as an engineer for the city of Somersworth and has tremendous amount of experience.
"He ran his own engineering company for number years and worked for four engineering companies," Welch said.
Jacobs, he said, is also a licensed professional engineer and licensed land surveyor.
He also holds two degrees — a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and associates degree in applied science civil technology — from the University of New Hampshire.
Jacobs, who officially started Wednesday, was selected from a dozen applicants.