SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 15, 2012

Wenham to hire firm to get through budget season

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — WENHAM — The town will once again be without a finance director, but town officials have a plan to hire a private firm to get through the budget season.

Finance Director Paula Bartlett has resigned effective Tuesday, Dec. 18, to accept a job offer from a “private enterprise,” interim Town Administrator Mark Andrews said.

Bartlett, who was promoted to the job permanently this summer after serving as the department’s interim director, is the third director to leave Town Hall in three years. Her salary was $78,000.

Selectmen have charged Andrews with putting together a transition plan, which calls for putting a request for proposals to hire a private financial or accounting firm to take control of the books until further plans can be established.

“Two weeks is not enough time to post the position,” Andrews said.

Andrews said he is expecting to receive quotes from interested firms Monday and will present his transition plan to selectmen Tuesday night. While the town’s budget season is gearing up, Andrews said an audit and the tax rate have already been completed.

“We won’t miss a beat, I guarantee that,” Andrews said. “I am confident the Board of Selectmen will have the tools they need to move forward with financial services.”

Selectmen Chairwoman Molly Martins said the town has hired similar firms in the past with vacant positions and is confident a private firm will get the town through the budget season.

“I think it is always a good idea when we are looking at senior positions to make sure we spend the time to find the right person,” Martins said.

Martins said Bartlett did a great job running the department. “I am certainly sorry to see her leave, but we are all presented with opportunities that we need to make decisions on,” she said.

While at one point town officials talked about merging the finance department with Hamilton’s, Bartlett’s resignation has not sparked that conversation, Martins said.

“It was determined that it was not the right time (for such a consolidation of the financial services),” Martins said. “But we never closed the door completely on that possibility.”

Bartlett was hired last winter to replace Nichole Hagstrom, who resigned in October 2011 to take a job as grant writer for the Salem schools.

Before Hagstom was hired, Wenham had trouble filling its finance director position when Sarah Johnson left the post in May 2010. The position was advertised three times, but the town did not hire any of the candidates.

Hagstrom, who previously worked as former Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren’s administrative assistant, was promoted to the $55,000-a-year finance director post Aug. 31, 2010.