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Southampton reopens town administrator search after Michael Szlosek turns down offer

Michael A. Szlosek, the Select Board's top choice for the job of Southampton's town administrator. 

REBECCA EVERETT.

Michael A. Szlosek, the Select Board's top choice for the job of Southampton's town administrator. REBECCA EVERETT. Purchase photo reprints »

SOUTHAMPTON — After the top candidate who emerged from a seven-month search turned down the job of town administrator, Southampton will now seek new applicants for the position which was vacated more than two years ago.

Michael A. Szlosek of Ludlow rejected the Select Board’s salary offer, opting instead to stay on as town manager of Athol. Szlosek was the board’s top choice from among 19 applicants.

The board has now charged the same screening committee that conducted most of the first search to take on the responsibility for the new one. John O. Martin, chairman of the search committee , said he hopes to have the position advertised in newspapers and online by this weekend.

“I expect the whole process to be wrapped up in four to six weeks,” Martin said Wednesday.

The Select Board also voted unanimously on Aug. 29 to reverse its earlier decision to remove a bachelor’s degree as a requirement for the job. A four-year degree will again be a requirement.

In a letter to the Select Board, Szlosek said he was “happy professionally” in his current job and had expected Southampton officials to offer him more money. His reasoning was that since he would not be participating in the town’s health insurance program, that would save Southampton about $10,000 a year. “I had expected that you would factor this into your offer,” he wrote.

The job was advertised with an annual salary range between $52,000 and $62,000. Szlosek earns $101, 496 a year in Athol.

He also wrote that the “protracted recruitment process” in Southampton was an “inauspicious start” to his relationship with the town and a factor in his decision not to take the job.

The previous town administrator, Diana Schindler, resigned in July 2011. Regina Shea-Sullivan, who has served since then as interim administrator, applied for the permanent job but was not a finalist during the search earlier this year.

That search began Jan. 22, when the job was first advertised. The Select Board then appointed the search committee, which narrowed the pool of 19 to six semifinalists. Three finalists were interviewed by the Select Board on May 28.

The board then voted to offer Szlosek the job pending the results of a background check which was not completed until early August. Contract negotiations began Aug. 13.

Martin said he understands why the process seemed overlong to Szlosek and this time it will be handled differently by the search committee. “We’re going to make it a better experience for applicants,” he said.

During the last search, the Select Board directed committee members step by step — first eliminating candidates who did not meet requirements, then ranking those who remained, interviewing semifinalists, and recommending finalists.

This time, Martin said the Select Board has told the committee to take responsibility for the whole process, from advertising the position to recommending three finalists.

Martin said before interviewing the finalists, the Select Board will do background checks to save time.

Select Board member Edward J. Cauley said the background check for Szlosek, performed by HireRight of Irvine, Calif., at a cost of $450, took a long time because it involved many steps. A company representative had to come to Town Hall and verify that it had a shredder, locked filing cabinets and other items to keep private any information the company would provide.

Now that the verification process is complete, future background checks should be quicker, Martin said.

“We’re disappointed,” he said of Szlosek’s decision not to take the job. “But this has given us an opportunity to look at the process and improve it.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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