At this time last year, Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos was convinced he was losing his job, having exhibited a tendency to speak his mind — particularly against a $1 billion casino New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a business partner had proposed.
This year, with his performance review just a week away, Paicos may be on steadier ground, but it’s any outsider’s guess whether he will stay after his three-year contract runs out this year.
In what seems to be business as usual in the south suburbs these days, municipal executives tend to come and go, willingly or not.
Like in Abington, where selectmen just hired Carver Town Administrator Richard J. LaFond as their new manager after choosing not to renew John D’Agostino’s contract.
D’Agostino was paid to leave his previous town manager job in Mansfield.
In Cohasset, the selectmen’s race is a referendum on whether acting town manager Michael Milanoski should be permanently hired. In February 2012, he stepped in after selectmen suspended and later fired manager Michael Coughlin.
In Bridgewater, Troy Clarkson left the town manager job last year for a similar position in Hanover, after continual clashes with Bridgewater’s inaugural Town Council.
Less dramatically, Duxbury selectmen recently hired Hanson Town Administrator Rene Read to replace Richard MacDonald, who is retiring. Norwell Town Administrator James Boudreau was a finalist in that search.
While a leadership change may roil the local scene, controversial turnovers are not so unusual, said Pat Mikes, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
“It happens all the time in the private sector, but government at all levels is under a microscope,” Mikes said. “There’s no magic to it. It’s just the luck of the draw.”
In Foxborough, Paicos is preparing for the last performance review in his three-year contract. It will be held publicly, during an April 16 selectmen’s meeting.
Clearly, his tenure has not always been smooth. A career National Guard Special Forces medic with 30 years of municipal experience, Paicos arrived in Foxborough in October 2010 after a two-year stint in Hingham. He replaced Andrew Gala, a quiet, unassuming man who had served the town for three decades.
Paicos was lauded during his first annual review for health care cost savings, pursuing economic development, and implementing an unpopular meals tax that brings the town an additional $600,000-plus a year in income.
But selectmen also ripped his communication skills and said employees have felt threatened by his strong-arm style. They also said he was too wordy.
Last year, Paicos was complimented for saving money and handling crippling power outages, and then strongly criticized for overstepping his authority, speaking inappropriately to the media during the casino debacle, and bullying Town Hall employees.
This year, relations have seemed strained in a number of areas including an almost $10,000 tuition reimbursement selectmen discovered in the fiscal 2014 budget for a new human resources director whose contract doesn’t require it.
Paicos removed the expenditure, reminiscent of a 2011 clash over his attempt to build a new title, tuition reimbursement, and a $19-an-hour pay rate into the spending plan for a college intern who assists him, even though selectmen had pledged no new hires.
At last Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, Paicos listed his accomplishments, ranging from emergency management with National Grid to stem townwide outages to the $1 million saved from revamping employee health insurance policies.
He put together a five-page memo to help selectmen rate his performance, a self-assessment that is one of several factors officials will consider in the discussion, which must be based on goals and objectives, per Paicos’s contract.
“I didn’t find anything wrong with my performance, it’s all good,’’ Paicos said during the meeting, to lighten the mood. Then, more seriously, he said, “It’s very important people understand that I don’t do this alone. Everything that gets accomplished is because of a whole composite of people.’’
Paicos said he worked to increase ambulance receipts, injecting $500,000 into the Fire Department budget so taxpayers don’t have to buy equipment. He helped broker a multimillion-dollar tax-relief package for Invensys Systems, a software manufacturer making $30 million in local upgrades, he said.
Other projects, including a new hotel and restaurant at Patriot Place, are also on the horizon, Paicos said. “You will see new businesses,’’ he said. “You will hear announcements in the next few weeks.”
The board’s chairman, James DeVellis, has urged his colleagues to sit with Paicos this week, review his memo, and then rate him individually, in private.
Like last year, DeVellis said, he will take those grades, combine them into one document, and then lay out “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
DeVellis said he wants the review completed before the April 30 town election to be sure the current board is the one to review Paicos.
The ballot’s three-way race for two selectmen’s seats includes DeVellis, fellow incumbent Lynda Walsh, and challenger John Gray, a member and former chairman of the town’s Advisory Committee.