TRURO — Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer has announced she will retire on June 30, 2020 after five years as the town’s municipal chief.
“It’s time,” she said on Tuesday. “It’s been a great five years. I feel we’ve done a lot of great work together.”
Palmer, who lives in Eastham, told her department heads on Friday she would not seek to renew her contract, which is up in June 2020.
Creating a cohesive team that works well together has been her proudest accomplishment, she said. But it has not been easy keeping all the town jobs filled. If the current candidate for council on aging director accepts the town’s offer, it will be one of the rare times every department head chair has been occupied, Palmer said.
“It’s really hard to hire people out here,” she said.
Still, she wrote in her letter to staff, “The town is filled with dedicated public servants who are committed to their jobs and who care about the community they serve. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my career to lead this team, and I will truly miss the staff more than anything.”
Palmer, who worked for the city of Hartford, Conn. for 22 years, was also the assistant town manager of Wethersfield, Conn., a suburb of Hartford, for another 10 years. She accepted the job of Truro town administrator in 2014. The charter commission then changed her title to town manager, giving her supervisory power over the police and fire chiefs, formerly the domain of the select board.
Palmer, whose base pay is about $130,000 plus a housing allowance, faced one extreme challenge during her tenure.
In May 2018, she sought and was granted a harassment prevention order against former Fire Chief Brian Davis after he was overheard saying she should be shot, according to court documents. Issued by Judge Toby S. Mooney of Orleans District Court, the order expired in June of this year and Palmer declined to seek a continuance.
A harassment prevention order differs from a restraining order in that it can be taken out against a person who is not a domestic or intimate partner.
According to court documents obtained by the Independent, when the Truro police served the order on Davis, they confiscated a number of weapons and ammunition from him, and secured them at the Truro Police Dept. This week, Truro Police Chief Jamie Calise would not say how many or what types of weapons had been confiscated from Davis, or who now held possession of those firearms. Calise said he needed to ask for legal advice before releasing such details.
Court documents state that Palmer requested the harassment prevention order following threatening statements Davis allegedly made on May 8, 2018 about her as well as about Fire Chief Timothy Collins and Collins’s girlfriend. During a discussion among several people in the Truro Dept. of Public Works break room, Davis allegedly said, “Someone should shoot [Palmer] in the head.” Davis then went on to make a similar statement about Collins, and to suggest a sexual attack on Collins’s girlfriend, according to a police narrative written by Det. Steven Raneo.
Davis was in the DPW building on that day in 2018 although he had retired from the fire department in 2015. He had reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, said Chief Collins on Monday.
“As the town manager I have a responsibility to act to protect staff,” Palmer wrote in an affidavit seeking the harassment prevention order. “I fear that this anger is escalating.”
It was not the first threatening statement Davis allegedly uttered. According to her affidavit, sometime in the week of April 23, 2018, he told DPW Director Jarrod Cabral that he had put a curse on Rex Peterson, Truro’s deceased town administrator, and that Palmer “should be dead.”
Davis allegedly made similar remarks directly to Palmer in 2014 when she first became town administrator, and again in January 2018, when he stopped by her office, she wrote.
Palmer would not comment on this matter. Davis, through his attorney, Matthew Kelley of Harwich, also declined to talk.
Select board member Robert Weinstein praised Palmer’s leadership and called her a friend.
“My take is she has brought a level of professionalism that the town sorely needed,” he said.
From dealing with sharks to affordable housing, “She’s done a lot; she will be hard to replace,” he said.
Editor’s note: Because of a reporting error, the print edition of this article published on Oct. 24 erroneously stated that Rae Ann Palmer was given the power to hire the police and fire chiefs when she became town manager. She has supervisory, not hiring, authority over the two chiefs.