Oak Bluffs town administrator Casey Sharpe resigned unexpectedly early this week, setting off a ripple of finger-pointing and innuendo around town as to the cause. The announcement about Ms. Sharpe's resignation was made at the start of the selectmen's meeting on Tuesday following a brief executive session.
"It is with great sadness that I announce we just accepted the resignation of Casey Sharpe," announced board chairman Duncan Ross, adding:
"The board of selectmen wishes her well. We know she will do well, because she has been an excellent town administrator."
Ms. Sharpe, who served as town administrator for four years, declined to explain her decision to step down. Following Tuesday's meeting, she said she was not sure what her next job would be. She said she would remain at her job for at least 60 days, and has no plans to leave the Island.
Ms. Sharpe, who is known for not answering the telephone and prefers to communicate with the press via e-mail, did not return a phone call from the Gazette on Wednesday morning. Asked in an e-mail to reflect on her time working for the town, her decision to step down and her future plans, she would only respond: "As for my resignation, I have no comment."
Ms. Sharpe was paid an annual salary of $84,000 in fiscal year 2004-2005, according to the town report.
Reports of Ms. Sharpe's impending resignation began to circulate around town on Monday, and by Tuesday the chatter had grown to a nearly audible buzz. Early reports indicated Ms. Sharpe was planning to resign during a special executive session that had been scheduled for 4 p.m., one hour before the regular selectmen's meeting.
Mr. Ross scheduled the meeting at the last selectmen's meeting for the purpose of "evaluating selectmen's office staff."
That executive session was cancelled, however, after selectman Kerry Scott sent an e-mail to her fellow board members Sunday in which she expressed concerns the session may have been scheduled in violation of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.
In the e-mail, Ms. Scott said she had spoken to Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Thomas Shack, who informed her that an executive session was not the proper forum for discussing professional competence and employee performance.
The executive session was cancelled sometime before Tuesday's regular meeting.
On Tuesday, selectmen unanimously voted to enter into an executive session by a roll call vote, although the reason for the executive session was not stated publicly, as required by law. Board members left the meeting room in the Oak Bluffs public library and returned less than five minutes later. Mr. Ross reconvened the meeting and announced Ms. Sharpe's resignation.
Some town officials and residents said later that the resignation stemmed from friction with some of the selectmen, namely selectman Kerry Scott.
Selectman Greg Coogan declined to go into specifics, but speculated that Ms. Sharpe might have felt some officials made it difficult to do her job.
"I knew she has been unhappy of late, and I think she has been hurt by some comments made about her. I do think there are people in town that made her job very difficult. It's too bad because I think we have lost the best person for the job," Mr. Coogan said.
Some said Ms. Sharpe was upset by events at the annual town meeting on April 13 when selectmen split over a proposal to swap the old town library on Pennacook avenue for the Browning Ferris Industry property on Pacific avenue. Ms. Scott was against the swap.
Reached by telephone on Wednesday, Ms. Scott said she was surprised by Ms. Sharpe's resignation, and she disputed the notion of a running feud between herself and the former town administrator.
"I've never had any discomfort with Casey at all. I think I've always had a reputation for playing well with others, which is why this really confuses me. I have a huge respect for [her] intellect," she said, adding:
"At this point I'm not feeling defensive. I'm just feeling perplexed."
As for the BFI property rift, Ms. Scott said made her position on the matter clear to both Ms. Sharpe and Mr. Ross before the town meeting.
Mr. Ross did not return repeated telephone calls from the Gazette this week.
Selectman Roger Wey said only that he wished Ms. Sharpe well. "She had a difficult job to do and I wish her the best in whatever she decides to do next," Mr. Wey said.
This marks the second time Ms. Sharpe has resigned. After she was hired as the town executive secretary in December 1999, she resigned her post in June of 2001. She then went to work as the assistant to the superintendent of Martha's Vineyard Public Schools. She was hired as the Oak Bluffs town administrator in April of 2002.
A number of people praised Ms. Sharpe at Tuesday's meeting for her performance as town administrator and executive secretary.
"I am so shocked to learn that Casey won't be with us. I don't know how we're going to get along without her," said Renee Balter, a member of the Cottage City historic district commission.
"You went so far above what other town administrators do for their town," said Priscilla Sylvia.
Those in attendance applauded and gave Ms. Sharpe a standing ovation at the close of the meeting.