Monday, June 25, 2012

Foxboro Town Manager Not Serving Town Well

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on June 25, 2012.

It appears the Town of Foxboro and the Kraft organization are about to re-enter negotiations on the sensitive topics of sewers and billboards. While the idea of a small-town government and one of the most powerful National Football League owners fighting over those two particular topics is amusing at first glance, there has been nothing funny about the potential impact this may have on the town that calls itself “The Gem of Norfolk County”.

To make a long story short, the Kraft Group and the town had an agreement of sorts on Kraft funding a sewer construction project and sharing revenue from billboards located along Route 1. It is a complicated saga complete with conflicting votes, intermingled municipal authority, a lack of understanding on both sides, and many bruised and sensitive egos. It was all intensified when the Great Foxboro Casino Issue was held over town officials as if a giant kid were trying to fry ants with a magnifying glass.

A heated discussion arose over whether the original agreement between the two parties had been done according to state bidding laws, and whether any subsequent agreement or extension would have to come under that process. That led to two embarrassing attempts at soliciting bids by Town Manager and Chief Procurement Officer Kevin Paicos, only to have absolutely no one bid either time.

There was even debate over who owned the land the billboards sat upon, with the town going so far as to propose an article for Town Meeting that would have taken Kraft land by eminent domain. At the suggestion of the town manager, selectmen refused to let a Kraft representative speak to the topic after being recognized at a selectmen’s meeting. That led to the Kraft Group obtaining a court injunction and filing a suit against the town.

You get the picture. It hasn’t been pretty.

It has become clear that much of the problem is the rocky relationship between Kraft Group officials and Town Manager Paicos. While some friction is certainly to be expected in this business relationship between private business officials and a local municipal manger, the Foxboro situation has gotten out of hand. Each side no doubt is responsible for some of the bad feelings and erosion of trust.

But Kevin Paicos has not served either his board or his town well in this regard. He has inserted himself and his personal views where they have not belonged, particularly involving the now resolved casino issue. Though a highly capable professional, he simply does not appear to have the temperament necessary for working in the difficult and unusual position of Foxboro Town Manager.

Paicos has consistently manipulated and maneuvered his Board of Selectmen rather than serving as their employee. Last December he issued what the Boston Globe called “an unorthodox public memo” urging selectmen to not allow Kraft and casino tycoon Steve Wynn to even present a proposal due to the divisive nature of the issue. For a professional town manager to make such a political statement independent from his bosses is – well, unprofessional.

The veteran administrator then made things worse when he went to the press weeks before the local election and claimed then-chairman and candidate Larry Harrington was out to fire him. Paicos also said Kraft was making his job impossible, and famously proclaimed “I’m standing up for a town called Foxboro, not Kraftville”. He said if he was fired “They will be lucky if they get Bozo the Clown. Certainly no one who will stand up to the Krafts.”

Paicos utilized the convenient politics generated by the casino issue to bolster his own position. But that is over now, and what is left is the need to work productively with the town’s largest taxpayer and property owner. That will be difficult because the Kraft folks not only appear to not like Paicos, they also appear not to respect him.

A good town manager cannot and must not simply bow down and do the will of the Kraft Group. But they must demonstrate the ability to conduct hard-nosed business with them on a professional level. Kevin Paicos has not done that, and until he does the taxpayers of Foxboro will have more to worry about than billboards and sewers.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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