FALMOUTH — With the Select Board’s recent vote to fire Julian Suso as city manager, Suso is likely to take legal action against the council in the coming weeks, according to his solicitor.
The council negotiates Suso’s departure and Peter Johnson-Staub will act as city manager until the chosen council finds a replacement for Suso. But the problem is far from solved, said Suso’s attorney, John Clifford.
“It’s going to end in litigation, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
The Select Board hired Suso as city manager in 2011. His contract was extended at the end of 2021 for three years and was due to expire in October 2024. His salary was $197,400. In the event of dismissal, Suso must receive four months’ salary.
His duties, according to the contract, were defined by the city charter. As chief executive of the city, the chief executive “shall be responsible for the administration and co-ordination of all employees, activities, and services placed by general laws, this charter, or by-law under the control of the select council and of the general manager”.
The city manager must also carry out the objectives and policies of the select council.
Suso is currently suspended with pay. His dismissal is effective July 12.
Falmouth, in the southwest corner of Cape Cod, reports a year-round population of around 30,000, making it the second largest town in Barnstable County.
Over the past 30 years, Suso has been praised, but also seen turmoil
Suso was city manager of Mentor, Ohio, for 16 years. He was fired from his job in 2006, for reasons that include a lack of transparency with the city council and the hiring of a police officer with a “horrendous work record”, according to an April 29, 2006 MetroWest Daily News account. .
He became Framingham City Manager later that year, and remained in the post for five years. His contract ended in 2011 when the Select Board chose not to renew it.
Although Framingham Select board members praised Suso’s integrity and management skills, they took issue with his “reactive” leadership style, saying he lacked pace when delivering projects, according to a March 23, 2011 MetroWest Daily News article.
A representative from the office of Charlie Sisitsky, who was a member of the Framingham Select Board at the time and is now mayor of Framingham, declined to comment. The Times has requested an interview with Sisitsky on Wednesday, July 6.
Suso was named in at least two lawsuits while in his job at Framingham.
The South Middlesex Opportunity Council brought a discrimination lawsuit against Framingham in 2007. Suso was initially named as a defendant, but was later dropped by Judge Douglas Woodlock, according to the MetroWest Daily News account of October 1, 2008 .
The council accused the city of blocking plans to expand a drug treatment home and create a shelter for disabled veterans.
The lawsuit ended with a $1 million settlement paid to the council by the city, according to the MetroWest Daily News.
Former Framingham human resources director Sandra Charton sued Suso in 2009 after he fired her, Charton argued that Suso fired her because she spoke out against Suso’s decision to fire employees. workers protected by anti-discrimination laws, the MetroWest Daily News reported. February 25, 2011.
Charton dropped the charges against Suso in court, opting to take the case to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
However, the complaint was dismissed, according to the commission’s website.
At Falmouth, the Select Board praised Suso in two areas but raised concerns
The Falmouth Select Board’s April 25 performance review praised Suso’s financial competence and project management.
However, problems existed with Suso’s performance – city employees had quit, Suso was not taking leadership roles on projects, and the public did not trust Suso, according to the assessment.
In an email, former Select Board member Megan English Braga told The Times that Select Board members had to respond to public complaints about Suso, and that the number and intensity of complaints has increased over the years. over the years.
The performance review indicates that city initiatives were often “bogged down” due to Suso’s poor rapport with the public.
Julian Suso disagrees with latest Falmouth Select Board assessment
Suso disagreed with the assessment and provided a formal response in a May 9 meeting. The evaluation process was invalid and the select committee was retaliating for actions that angered board members, he said.
One of those actions, Suso said, was when he called for a public hearing after former board chairman Doug Brown sent him an email in September 2021 that threatened his use. After convening the hearing, the select committee began to treat Suso with hostility, Suso said.
Another move, Suso said, was his decision to hire Maura O’Keefe in January for city solicitor rather than Megan English Braga, who was a member of the Select Board at the time. At the time, Braga had the support of current board chair Nancy Taylor, Suso said.
Taylor declined to comment when contacted by The Times.
Braga told The Times in an email that she was glad Suso hired O’Keefe and that Suso’s firing had nothing to do with that hiring decision.
“I am very sad that Mr. Suso chose to misrepresent my actions in this way,” she said. “I spent six years working side-by-side with him, supporting him when few others did, and I believe in his heart he knows that line of argument is completely wrong.”
A movement to end Suso begins
On May 12, the Falmouth Select Board voted to terminate Suso and suspended him with pay.
Suso hired a lawyer and requested a public hearing.
The first hearing took place on June 21. Taylor, the chairman of the board, read out the reasons each board member wanted Suso fired, citing some of the same reasons in the appraisal report.
Board members said Suso does not support initiatives.
In the performance evaluation, the Select Board said Suso did not support sewage treatment planning, the effects of sea level rise and the effects of global climate change.
Suso completed all of his contract objectives and was subject to retaliation, Clifford, his attorney, said in response.
Clifford also accused Taylor of violating the state’s open meeting law. Taylor discussed terminating Suso with board members outside of a regular meeting, he said.
Clifford requested public documents from the city for the June 21 hearing and received 200 pages of emails between council members regarding Suso, he said.
The last public hearing was held on June 27, and the select committee voted to fire Suso effective July 12.
Lack of evidence from Falmouth Select Board, says Suso’s lawyer
In a telephone interview with The Times, Clifford said the June 21 public hearing was “the first time I can remember a party deliberately not presenting any evidence.”
Suso raised the city’s bond rating and finalized the layout of city-owned wind turbines, secured a project manager for the proposed fire station on Sandwich Road, and developed a performance appraisal system for key chiefs. of duty, said Clifford.
There were only 15 complaints sent to the Select Board about Suso between 2021 and 2022, Clifford said. Nine other complaints about Suso were sent to Braga, he said.
The hearing was “a farce,” Clifford said.