Plaistow manager to retire with $250K severance

·3 min read

Jun. 24—PLAISTOW — Town Manager Mark Pearson will receive a weekly check from the town for $4,886 during the first year of his retirement, starting July 1, according to a separation agreement signed by Pearson and Plaistow selectmen.

On top of that $250,000, the town will cover 85% of Pearson's health insurance through Dec. 31, 2022.

By signing the letter, Pearson surrendered his right to sue the municipality at any point.

Discussion about the manager's departure — with at least a year left on his contract — is said to have begun several weeks ago, when Chairman Darrell Britton approached Pearson.

Pearson followed up by requesting a June 14 meeting with the entire board. He explained to the governing body how Britton said it was "time to find my replacement."

When Pearson questioned the timeframe, he was told June — meaning this month.

The private conversation angered at least one board member, Greg Taillon, who asserted during the public meeting, "as far as I'm concerned, that is against the law."

Vice Chairman John Blinn Sr. as well as members Jay DeRoche and Bill Coye said they did not have any part in the conversation.

"That is also not within the authority of your position as chair," Taillon said. "You complained (prior) about people not getting enough information to the board, and you're going behind our back and having a negotiation with the town manager?"

Britton did not respond when asked to comment for this article.

Before leaving the room to allow the board to meet privately, Pearson outlined his work during four years and four months on the job, and his intentions for the next several years.

Last year, Pearson signed his second three-year contract with two one-year renewable clauses. He said the contract was signed "in good faith."

He told the board he gave up other opportunities to stay in Plaistow and continue with some major projects, most notably bringing in drinkable water.

"All my goals have been not only met but exceeded," Pearson said, mentioning work on the Public Safety Complex, Public Works garage, Westville Road bridge, Pollard Road culvert and more.

He said there have been no grievances or lawsuits against the town with him as manager. Several unfair labor practice claims were dismissed by the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

He took the opportunity to brief the board on some personnel issues he has dealt with, including two employees who posted more than 100 anti-Semitic threats online against another employee.

Pearson said he addressed the misuse of town-owned cars, one of which was discovered in Western Massachusetts when it was supposed to be in Plaistow. In separate instances, cars were found with personal pets inside and loam for a home improvement project.

Computer misuse, time and attendance, sexual harassment among employees, and substance abuse issues have also demanded his attention.

"Even had an individual that I counseled for 17 times about being under the influence of drinking and drugs while working," Pearson said.

He wrapped up, "I don't feel that there's just cause to even talk about performance-related (issues) to get rid of me .... If we're talking 'fair and equitable,' I have two years left on my contract."

Pearson was hired by selectmen in 2017. He joined Plaistow Town Hall as a retired Salem, New Hampshire, police captain with experience as a public administrator in Hudson and Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Selectmen say Assistant Town Manager and Finance Director Greg Colby will step into Pearson's role temporarily. A conflict of interest between Pearson and police Chief Douglas Mullin has similarly required Colby's attention as of late.

Mullin has remained under investigation by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office following allegations last month that he assaulted a police officer in his office.

"Anything with the Mullin investigation was taken over by Greg Colby," Blinn Sr. said.

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