PROVINCETOWN — Robin Craver was hired as Provincetown’s town manager by the select board on Jan. 13, 2020. Her contract included a six-month probationary period, after which, if she were terminated by the select board or asked to resign, she would be entitled to a $126,666 severance package, equal to eight months of her $190,000 annual salary.
Only a few days before that six-month probation would have ended and those severance provisions would have taken effect, Craver resigned as town manager.
The resignation was announced the day after the board met and went into “executive session” on Thursday, July 9. The state’s Open Meeting Law allows town boards to meet behind closed doors when personnel matters are being discussed, including contracts. The select board’s agenda indicated that the town manager’s contract was the subject of that meeting — but under the rules covering executive sessions, neither the public nor the press is allowed to observe the proceedings.
Minutes must be kept of such closed meetings, but they may be kept confidential as long as “publication would defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session,” according to the Open Meeting Law Guide published by the state attorney general’s office.
Without public access, minutes, or direct statements from those in the room, little is known about what happened at the meeting. The announcement the next day, in a joint statement from Craver and Select Board Chair Dave Abramson, gave few details.
“Provincetown is a unique community, and I enjoyed my time meeting and working with the town’s residents and employees,” said Craver, according to the statement.
“We greatly appreciate Robin’s efforts to help us navigate through the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic,” said Abramson. “We wish her the very best in her future endeavors.”
Another Search Begins
Provincetown has struggled to find and retain a town manager. Sharon Lynn served from 2007 to 2013. In 2013 Lynn had to fire Police Chief Jeff Jaran for overtly campaigning for select board candidates. She left Provincetown and became city manager of Rehoboth Beach, Del., that December.
David Panagore was town manager from 2015 to 2019. He left the job to become chief administrator of the Mass. Bay Transportation Authority, though he still lives in Provincetown and was recently appointed as an alternate on the finance committee.
Panagore told the Independent that being town manager in Provincetown is a tough job.
“You’ll notice no other town administrator on Cape Cod applied for the job — at $200,000,” said Panagore. (Craver received a $9,000 housing allowance in addition to her salary.) Affordable housing, coastal resiliency, and a new police station are all interesting challenges, he added. So, what’s the problem?
A population that thrives on argument, a toxic Facebook culture, and open hostility on the select board were three difficulties the former town manager identified.
“Free speech is valued in Provincetown, and compromise is not,” said Panagore. “The population values its contentiousness.”
Panagore said he thought Craver had good ideas. Nonetheless, he added, Craver and Provincetown “seemed like a mismatch.”
The town manager search committee identified three finalists last fall, and Craver was the unanimous choice of the select board. Both Craver and Provincetown are now back to their respective drawing boards, trying to make a better match.