No one disputes that Susan Barber, a litigation paralegal employed by the City of Taunton, Massachusetts, isn’t well-liked or good at her job. But when the City Solicitor Jane Estey and Mayor Charles Crowley  re-organized the legal department following the previous risk manager’s retirement last November, and added those duties to Barber’s, some City Council members were not pleased.

The fact that Barber’s ability to perform the risk management duties saves the City about $50,000 a year didn’t stop some council members from complaining about being left out of the hiring loop.

“It’s working out quite well for the law department,” said Estey, who claimed the city was on course to save at least $50,000 by not hiring a new risk manager independent of Barber.

Estey on Thursday reiterated that Barber had proven herself capable of taking on the responsibilities of risk manager.

One council member, Jason Buffington, thinks the City’s growing caseload would be better handled by the addition of a second assistant soliclitor, i.e. an attorney.

Human Resource Director Maria Gomes responded that the risk management position was posted, and Barber was hired after applying and interviewing for it, and given a $8,286 pay increase, for an annual salary of $58,096. Gomes pointed out the promotion saves the City a significant amount of money. The mayor added that similar cost-cutting measures may be needed in the future, given rising health insurance costs and anticipated state budget cuts pending.

Estey offered to reverse the promotion and hire an assistant attorney, who would likely have little to no experience. After a heated discussion, a motion was passed to review Barber’s salary and job duties in three weeks.

If Barber’s supervising attorney thinks she can handle the added responsibilities, perhaps the council should agree to give her a chance, and review the matter after a probationary period.

Source: Taunton Daily Gazette

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