Petitioners seek Hadley manager’s removal
David Nixon, Hadley town administrator Purchase photo reprints »
David G. Nixon, Hadley Town Adminstrator, in front of Town Hall Friday, Sept. 2. Purchase photo reprints »
The petition was presented to the Select Board during an executive session last week by Wilfred Danylieko, the primary organizer behind the drive.
Danylieko, the town wiring inspector and a retired electrician, said in an interview last week that he came to the conclusion that Nixon needed to go after working on several projects relating to the maintenance of town buildings with the Hadley administrator.
“He is not qualified to make a lot of these decisions,” Danylieko said.
Nixon earned a doctorate in political anthropology from the University of Massachusetts in 1989 and has worked in municipal government, mostly in Deerfield, since that time.
The petition, which garnered 182 signatures, says Nixon has “abused his authority by using town resources for his personal agenda, has failed to treat other town departments with proper respect, has caused the town unnecessary expenses in litigation costs and is a severe detriment to the future of the town of Hadley.”
Nixon largely declined comment on the matter this week, saying, “It’s obviously a personnel issue and we don’t talk about such things.”
But he did offer a defense to the charge that he has used town resources “for a personal agenda.”
“I work for the town of Hadley,” Nixon said in an interview at Town Hall. “I make my decisions with the best interest of Hadley at the forefront of my mind, seeking always the authorization of the Select Board and acting in accordance with the ethics of my profession, the bylaws of Hadley and the laws of the commonwealth.”
Asked to provide an example of how Nixon uses town resources to further a personal agenda, Danylieko said the Hadley administrator often draws up building specifications for maintenance contracts even though he has no qualifications to do so.
“The time and paper, researching petitions and engineering, doing things he is not qualified to do,” Danylieko said. “These are resources he could be putting to good use in different areas.”
The Gazette called all five Select Board members seeking comment about the petition. Select Board Chair Gloria DiFulvio declined comment in an email, saying that she has been out of town for two weeks to deal with a death in her family. Of the board’s four other members, David Moskin was the only one to respond to the request for a comment.
Moskin said he “acknowledged” the concerns of the residents who signed the petition. “I hope the Select Board and town administrator take these folks seriously and respect their concerns,” Moskin said. “I have been aware of a high level of discontent of people working for the town, but I wasn’t aware of the degree residents perceive the problems as well.”
He said his understanding is that residents and employees are dissatisfied due to a lack of progress on public safety issues and building maintenance.
In an interview at his home, Danylieko said Nixon has mismanaged Hadley’s finances, leaving little money to spend on needed repairs to town buildings.
Danylieko was a member of a group along with Building Inspector Timothy Neyhart and Fire Capt. Michael Spanknebel that conducted a study of the town’s buildings last year.
The group’s report concluded North Hadley Hall required $1.5 million in repairs while Russell School required renovations estimated at between $1.1 million and $1.7 million.
“In the past two years, we haven’t done a damn thing with the buildings,” Danylieko said, adding that the lack of maintenance has led to public safety concerns.
Russell School is particularly worrying, he said, as it has numerous building, wiring and health code violations yet the town continues to lease the space to North Star Self Directed Learning for Teens. Nixon has ignored warnings about the public safety dangers at the building, Danylieko said.
As examples of Nixon’s financial mismanagement, Danylieko cited the administrator’s oversight of repairs to the Connecticut River dike and what he described as Nixon’s tendency to spend money on consulting studies conducted by outside groups. In many cases, Danylieko argued, asking the advice of Hadley residents would provide the same level of expertise without the cost.
On the issue of the dike, Danylieko said Nixon ignored the advice of Edward Mieczkowski, a Hadley resident and engineer at B&M Construction. Mieczkowski told Nixon that the work being done to fix a crack, which first appeared in 2008, would not hold, Danylieko said.
Mieczkowski confirmed that account in a separate interview.
“I believed the design was improper,” he said.
Original estimates to fix the damaged dike were pegged at nearly $300,000. But two weeks before repairs were to be completed in 2009, more cracks appeared in the earthen structure. The additional fixes increased the project’s cost from $300,000 to $1.3 million. The state will cover $800,000 of the project. Hadley voters initially approved $350,000 to cover the fixes in 2008, then approved an additional $200,000 pay for the extra work in 2010. They have also approved $80,000 in legal costs related to the issue. Last year the town sued the two companies charged with designing and fixing the dike in hopes of recouping the $550,000 it has spent.
Danylieko also criticized the town for spending money on outside firms to conduct management studies of the police and fire departments, as well as a study of maintenance at North Hadley Hall.
Those studies cost the town around $200,000, he said.
“Do we have to study everything there is?” he asked.
According to the town accountant’s office, the amount Hadley paid for the police, fire and building studies is closer to $33,000 rather than the $200,000 cited by Danylieko.
The town paid Bradley Architects a total of $14,200 for a study of North Hadley Hall in fiscal years 2011 and 2012; $8,000 to BadgeQuest for a management study of the Police Department in FY11; and $11,975 for a fire management study done by Municipal Resources Inc. in FY12, according to the accountant’s office.
In a follow-up interview Monday, Danylieko said the $200,000 figure came from the Finance Committee.
“They told me in the past five years that we’ve spent $200,000 on studies we didn’t need,” Danylieko said.
The Gazette could not independently confirm that assertion. Neither Frank Aquadro nor Howard Koski, co-chairs of the Finance Committee, returned phone calls seeking comment.
Ultimately, Danylieko said, he would like to see the Select Board vote to remove Nixon to improve the financial management of the town and ensure its needs are being met.
“I am just an individual who’s fed up with the fact we have no money,” Danylieko said. “We’ve got the money — we just have to use it properly.”