Claremont Unable to Reach Financial Deal With City Manager Pick

  • Ryan McNutt (Sentinel & Enterprise photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 12/22/2016 12:17:03 AM
Modified: 12/22/2016 4:18:53 PM

Claremont — The City Council on Wednesday night was unable to reach a contract agreement with David Johnston to become the next city manager and has made a conditional offer to the other finalist, Mayor Charlene Lovett said.

In a statement released by the council following a non-public session, Lovett said the council made the offer to Ryan McNutt, of Fitchburg, Mass., who has been the town administrator for Lancaster, Mass., since August 2014. Prior to that, he was director of housing for three years in Fitchburg.

Lovett would only say that failed negotiations with Johnston, of Maple Valley, Wash., had to do with a “financial package.”

“Although the council spoke in a unified voice when it announced the selection of David Johnston for the position of city manager, it had been a very tough decision given the quality of the two final candidates,” the council said in the statement. “The council has not been able to negotiate satisfactory terms of employment with David Johnston. So, the council has made a conditional offer to Ryan McNutt. The city hopes to finalize an agreement with Mr. McNutt by the end of the year with a starting date by Feb. 1, 2017.”

The council had previously established a salary of up to $135,000 for the position.

The council took three votes on Wednesday, the statement said: the first was to rescind the conditional employment offer to Johnston; the second was to make the offer to McNutt, who was present at the meeting; and the third was to hire Pat MacQueen of Municipal Resources Inc. as interim manager for the month of January.

City Manager Guy Santagate is retiring Dec. 31 after more than 15 years.

In late November, the council selected Johnston and McNutt as the best two candidates from the three recommended by the city manager screening committee. The committee trimmed the original applicant pool of 38 down to six and then chose three for the council to interview.

On Dec. 6, the council voted 9-0 to offer the job to Johnston, who had served as city manager in Maple Valley from 2009 until May of this year when he resigned because of differences with the city council over the direction of the city.

McNutt earned an undergraduate degree in history and secondary education in 2008 and a graduate degree in history in 2014, both from Fitchburg State College.

From 2009 to 2011, he was chief of staff for the administration of Mayor Lisa Wong in Fitchburg, population of 40,000, according to the 2010 census.

The Fitchburg annual budget is more than $100 million and McNutt said he was part of a team that brought the city’s “stabilization account” up from $25,000 to more than $5 million, according to his resume.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at
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