Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Foxboro Town Manager Invokes "Bozo"

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on April 20, 2012

When town managers start talking about themselves instead of concentrating on their duties, you know their time in that community is drawing to a close. Nowhere is this more obvious than Foxboro, where Town Manager Kevin Paicos is telling just about anyone who will listen he believes he will soon be fired. He may very well be right.

But Paicos also believes his problems in Foxboro are largely caused by his run-ins with Robert Kraft and the Kraft organization, particularly over the casino issue and some billboards the town and Kraft have shared for several years. Paicos believes he has done his job and stood up for Foxboro, which has angered Kraft and in turn caused his relationship with the board of selectmen to sour.

“I understand I’m controversial, but I’m standing up for a town called Foxboro, not Kraftsville,” Paicos told the Boston Globe this past weekend. “These ongoing conflicts with Kraft and (developer Steve) Wynn and conflicts over the casino are making it impossible for me to succeed in my job.”

But in fact, Mr. Paicos has no one but himself to blame for his possibly tenuous employment position. Through his actions, his attitude, and his insistence on going outside his actual responsibilities, Paicos has set himself up to fail. He has been acting less like a town manager and more like a selectman almost since the start of his Foxboro tenure. He has shown a tendency to dictate to his board rather than help them do their job,

A good town manager understands they are employed by the town, but work for the selectmen. That does not mean you can’t stand up to them, individually or as a board, when you believe they are wrong. But you do it in a professional manner, understanding they are the elected representatives of the townspeople and you the person they hire to manage the day-to-day operations.

Paicos has consistently violated this professional principle. He took a position on the casino issue before selectmen finalized theirs, issuing a public statement urging the board to refuse to entertain any proposals or negotiations with the Kraft/Wynn organizations. He attempted to manipulate public opinion and maneuver selectmen into a political corner, trying to create public policy rather than implementing what his board ultimately decided.

Later, when the Kraft/Wynn organizations kept trying to be heard on the casino issue, Paicos used unnecessarily harsh and confrontational language to address the situation. "If they go forward with this application that will be outrageous and arrogant," Paicos said publicly. While that may well represent the opinion of many in town, it is unbecoming the community’s chief executive and does not help in maintaining a respectful relationship with the town’s largest taxpayer.

Then Paicos inserted himself again where he did not belong, raising a “point of order” when a representative of the Kraft organization attempted to speak at a selectmen’s meeting. The town manager loudly and strongly urged the chairman to not recognize the speaker saying it would be improper and compromise an ongoing bid process – both of which proved to be incorrect. That led to a court order and a lawsuit against the town.

To be fair, Paicos has been thrust into a difficult position. He was hired by a divided board, and this group of selectmen has not exactly been a model of consistent and reasonable leadership. He has the tough task of dealing with a powerful organization with tremendous resources in the Kraft group, and when you throw the emotional casino issue and Steve Wynn into the mix it doesn’t get any easier.

But to be the town manager in Foxboro, you must have the ability to bring people together and set aside your own personal feelings. Kevin Paicos has had trouble doing both. Despite some successes, he has failed to be the professional and objective influence Foxboro so desperately needs. No matter how hard he tries to blame Robert Kraft or the selectmen for his failures, he has put himself in this position.

Paicos thinks selectmen would have a difficult time replacing him, telling the Globe “They will be lucky if they get Bozo the Clown.” Bozo himself declined to comment on the matter – which should serve as a lesson of sorts to Mr. Paicos.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a longtime local official. He can be reached at

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