TIVERTON — A town planner position has been a controversial subject among different groups in town over the years and could continue to be following a recent vote by the new Town Council to extend the probationary period of the new planner for another six months, allowing for dismissal without cause.
It was Council Vice President Justin Katz who suggested at the council’s last meeting to extend the probationary period which was due to expire in a week because the new council had just been elected and did not have any time to evaluate the proposal to move him “from probation to non-probation,” Katz said.
Katz even suggested having a hearing in executive session to discuss the probationary period.
Instead, the council decided to extend the probationary period for six months, to May 31. It would require a change to Planner William Compton’s contract that called for just a six-month probation.
Compton agreed to the change.
“If you get past one year, presumably the employee will be with you because you’ve tested them out,” Assistant Town Solicitor Peter Skwirz said. By extending the probationary period, he can be dismissed at any time before then without cause.
Compton is the town planner as well as the administrative officer to the Planning Board, which requires him to review plans to determine if they meet all requirements to move on to review by the Planning Board. The contract calls for the planner to also be the administrative officer.
The Planning Board recommended extending his contract beyond the probationary period and evaluating him at the one-year mark when the contract could be extended to years two and three.
Town Administrator Jan Reitsma said the contract has been revised to reflect the new, additional six-month probationary period.
As Reitsma formulates a new budget for fiscal 2020 that will begin June 30, 2019, he plans to include a planner as a line item in the budget.
“I have not been told not to,” Reitsma said Thursday.
A planner is a critical position in town government, he said, both for dealing with development proposals and planning for the future.
Compton said Friday when asked to comment on his probationary period being extended by six months: “I’m pleased to continue to serve the town of Tiverton as administrative officer to the Planning Board and the town planner.”