by Geoff Fox
A Hancock News editorial on March 2 calling for town officials to hire a permanent town manager prompted Town Advisor Bill Valentine to explain in a Hancock council meeting what role he has within the town government.
During the March town meeting, Valentine addressed questions about his role and salary during his report. He also talked about actions he had taken to advance the town’s interests in various development deals in the works.
“Since they asked those questions in a public publication, I think it’s only right I answer those questions and hopefully they’ll appear in the public publication,” Valentine said at the March 9 council meeting.
In the editorial, The Hancock News said it was unclear who Valentine worked for – Greenwill Consulting or the Town of Hancock – and hadn’t been publicly discussed what the town is paying him for his services as advisor.
Valentine said he is not a staff member of Greenwill Consulting, but private contractor with Greenwill. He said he doesn’t work for the Town of Hancock.
“My paycheck is a monthly check comes from Greenwill Consultants,” Valentine said.
The consulting group is offering the services of five people – Valentine and others who work in Annapolis – for an annual fee paid by the town. In previous budgets, Hancock council had set aside roughly $20,000 per year for their contract with Greenwill. That budget detail was not provided last year.
Valentine also pointed that the fee for Greenwill Consulting is less than what the town paid Gilbert in salary.
Valentine said that Gilbert was given a new truck for business as town manager. He alleges Gilbert took the town owned truck for business and personal trips. On a recent town-related trip to Philadelphia with Mayor Tim Smith, Valentine said they took his personal vehicle at no cost to the town. He didn’t specify what town business he and Smith were on for that trip.
Valentine then listed ways he believes he has given the town “their money’s worth.”
When Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford came to town, he wrote a letter, at the request of Greenwill, to Rutherford requesting $1 million be added to the governor’s budget for the town’s revitalization of Main Street campaign, Valentine said.
“The feeling was, worst thing that could happen was they could say no,” he said. “I actually figured if we asked for a million, we’d get $250,000.”
Valentine said Hancock will now get $1 million in the governor’s budget. That budget must be approved by the Maryland Assembly during their legislative session.
The editorial said town officials should start the process of starting to look for a new town manager to oversee a number of upcoming projects such as the new water and sewer upgrades, negotiate a new trash deal, and the budget.
Valentine said he and town officials have been discussing that job “since Day One.” Hancock took on Valentine as an advisor more than seven months ago, when council members decided to delay their search for a new town manager.
Valentine said he has since given town officials a suggested job description for a town manager, along with a base description town officials could use when looking for a replacement for Gilbert.
Valentine also noted town officials could add or subtract from that description.
Confusion about a public water line to supply the new travel plaza at the east end of Main Street has been the subject of some council discussion recently.
Valentine said that confusion came because Gilbert had negotiated deals with the developer on land outside of Hancock town limits, where the town government has no control. Previously, council members had talked about the possibility of annexing that area into the town limits.
Valentine said the town has no records of what the town manager discussed with the developer.
“There’s no files, no written files, nothing on his computer, no notes,” he said. “So that’s where the confusion comes in.”
Valentine said it’s important when any new town manager comes in that they know exactly what the duties are, and know they work for town officials.
“Everything has to go through the mayor and town council,” Valentine said.