80 percent of success is showing up.
COLUMN: Clive McFarlane
There is something troubling about a town's CEO being suspended twice in less than a year-and-a-half for tardiness, which has been the fate of Shaun Suhoski, the Sturbridge town administrator.
Hired in February 2010, Mr. Suhoski was suspended for five days with pay in February 2011 because of his alleged tardiness. Earlier this month, he was again suspended for tardiness, this time for three days with pay.
Neither Mr. Suhoski nor the Board of Selectmen would elaborate on the nature of his tardiness. The former did not respond to an email or a voice message request for comment. Mary Blanchard, board chairman, said the issue was a personnel matter.
Nevertheless, we know the board wants Mr. Suhoski to get to the office no later than 9 a.m. His contract, a copy of which I obtained on Wednesday, is more nuanced. It recognizes that the administrator often conducts town business outside normal office hours; subsequently, according to the contract, he is allowed to take compensatory time off as he deems appropriate, providing of course that such comp time does not interfere with his administrative duties.
I had used my lunch hour to drive to the Sturbridge Town Hall to pick up a copy of his contract. I arrived around 12:55 p.m., only to find all the service windows closed, with signs noting the various offices would reopen for business at 1 p.m.
Being a Worcester resident, I had not contemplated the possibility of a midday break in the town's business hours, and while it did not adversely impact my schedule that day, it provided a small window on why Sturbridge residents might be touchy about the punctuality of their town officials.
For one thing, they do not have the luxury that I have in the city of Worcester to use my lunch break to run to City Hall and tackle some personal business.
And if Mr. Suhoski is habitually turning up past 11 a.m. each day (I'm just speculating here), you could see how that could ruin the day for a resident who has scheduled business with him in the morning.
So I hope Mr. Suhoski doesn't take it the wrong way, if I point out that some people, including myself, are wondering why, at a time when the opportunity to find and hold a job is at a premium, it would be so difficult for him, someone who is pulling down a six-figure salary, not to be highly motivated to get to work on time.
It is not like the job demands heavy lifting.
In fact, all he is required to do to satisfy the physical-demand qualifications for the position, according to his job description, is to be able "to sit" on a regular basis.
He is also "frequently required to use hands to finger, handle, or feel; reach with hands and arms and talk or hear."
He is "occasionally required to stand; walk; climb or balance and stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl." He "must occasionally lift and/or move up to 10 lbs ..."
Maybe this is a communication problem between the board and Mr. Suhoski. Perhaps Mr. Suhoski, who lives in Gardner, prefers to do most of his sitting at home.
It could also be a "buyer's remorse," problem. Maybe Mr. Suhoski has come to recognize that the required stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling would be before the Board of Selectmen, and he is having second thoughts.
His job description also requires him to have a sense of humor, and maybe this is just him being funny. But this is no laughing matter.
Given these tough economic times, the town cannot afford to frequently or even occasionally pay its top administrator to sit on his hands.
Sturbridge residents badly need an administrator they can reach, talk to and hear from on a timely basis, and they shouldn't have to stoop, kneel or crawl to get one. Contact Clive McFarlane via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.