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Canton town, village boards debate economic development director’s job

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CANTON — Village trustees and Town Council members were split Tuesday evening on whether Economic Development Director Linda M. McQuinn should keep her job as part of a proposed restructuring plan.

Mayor Mary Ann Ashley said she has lost confidence in Ms. McQuinn’s ability to handle her job duties, and she favors opening up economic development director and community development director jobs to all applicants.

She said two recent projects weren’t handled well by Ms. McQuinn: A marketing outreach project that took more than a year to complete and a Main Street grant application that contained 27 grammatical and typographical errors.

“I do not have confidence in our current service provider,” Ms. Ashley said during a special joint meeting of the two boards. “I have to be honest. I’m embarrassed. It’s not the quality we expected.”

Ms. McQuinn was not at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.

While they did not comment on specifics related to Ms. McQuinn’s job performance, all four trustees — Brooke E. Rouse, Michael E. Dalton, Carol Pynchon and Daniel J. McDonnell — said Ms. McQuinn should have to reapply if she wants to keep working for the town and the village after her office is restructured.

Two weeks ago, the town and village informally agreed to create a new community development director job while also keeping the economic developer position.

Trustees said the boards are obligated to taxpayers to fill the jobs with the most qualified candidates.

Town Supervisor David T. Button and council members James T. Smith and Paul F.Backus said they support the restructuring, but believe Ms. McQuinn deserves to keep her job without having to reapply. Town Councilman Jesse C. Coburn, a former village trustee, sided with the village board on the issue. Councilman Daniel G. Fay was absent.

“I think Linda’s performance speaks for itself. She does an exemplary job. I support keeping Linda,” Mr. Button said.

Mr. Backus said the town board should have been conducting annual performance reviews for Ms. McQuinn, but he believes she’s done a good job considering what she’s charged to accomplish. Her contract was last renewed in 2009.

“She’s had a rough job trying to make a lot of people happy from a lot of different directions,” he said.

Giving an example, he mentioned her role in the Rushton Place project, 1 Main St.

“Linda has done a great job on some major projects like that,” Mr. Backus said.

Over the past several years, Ms. McQuinn has worked under Mr. Button’s supervision because the town contributed $45,000 per year toward economic development, while the village’s share was $15,000. She works for the town through an independent contract, which means she’s not technically a municipal employee.

Depending on whether the jobs are classified exempt or Civil Service, job candidates also may have to take a Civil Service exam, with top scorers given hiring preference.

The meeting adjourned before a decision was reached about how to proceed with filling the economic development director and community development director positions, opening up the possibility that the town and village may end their long-standing partnership regarding economic development.

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