Oxford officials voted Wednesday night to hire longtime Selectman Dave McKane as a town employee.
McKane, 59, was hired as a laborer at the Oxford Department of Public Works. He will start in the unionized position on Monday at a rate of $20.71 an hour, which at 40 hours a week equates to $43,076 a year. He will also be eligible for overtime.
The vote to hire McKane, a Democrat, was 2-0 with First Selectman George Temple and Selectman Jeff Haney, both Republicans, casting the ‘yes’ votes. McKane recused himself from the vote and left the room when the vote was cast.
“It is pretty controversial, but not from my point of view,” Temple said. “Dave has done an awful lot for this town. He wants the the job, and I know he’s going to do a good job.”
McKane, who has served in some form of local government for 29 years, is in his fourth consecutive term as a selectman and plans to remain in his seat. He acknowledged that some may take issue with his hiring.
“I can’t change people’s minds if they want to look at it as something being controversial,” he said. “The fact is, I knew there was going to be some openings. I applied like everyone else. I need a job.”
McKane, who is married and has three adult daughters, has worked in manufacturing for several years. Prior to that, he said he worked in all phases of construction, where he learned how to operate machines, such as large trucks and backhoes, which he may be called upon to operate at DPW.
“In fact, when they built Carriage Drive in Oxford, I was the guy picking the rocks off the side of the road and backfilling the curbs and raking the aprons and everything,” he said, adding that he recently obtained a commercial driver’s license. “I’m a hands-on type of guy; I helped build my own home. …I suspect from both sides of the aisle, I will receive some backlash. But I think I have what it takes to do the job.”
McKane said he discussed the issue with town counsel and learned there are no regulations stating he has to step down as selectman. If there were, McKane said he would not have applied. “The people elected me to be a selectman, and I wouldn’t turn my back on that responsibility and opportunity," he said.
McKane, whose wife, Linda, is an assistant in the Oxford town clerk’s office, has recused himself from discussions or votes involving that office while selectman. He expects to do the same when discussions arise about public works.
Following Wednesday's selectmen meeting, Temple praised McKane, with whom he often finds himself at odds with politically.
“Aside from the fact that I obviously don’t always agree with Dave McKane, I never doubted his motivation, his dedication to the town," Temple said. "That is worth something to me; that is worth a lot."
Temple said there were three candidates for the position and that he believes McKane was the most qualified.
“I think the most important qualification to work for the town is commitment, and Dave McKane has the commitment," Temple said.
Still, not everyone was pleased over the hiring.
A clearly frustrated David Stocker, chair of the Republican Town Committe, stormed out of the room when the vote was cast, yelling “adios” as he opened the door. Prior to that, he tried to block the vote, saying that the board was not following Robert’s Rules of Order because it had tabled the discussion of DPW employee hiring at its last meeting and never amended the agenda to have that item removed.
And Republican Board of Finance Vice Chairman Jack Kiley took issue with the hiring process for town employees, one which he described as being wrought with cronyism, nepotism and favoritism.
“Right now, we just hire F.R.O. employees – friends and relatives only,” he said. Kiley, however, did not mention McKane and his discussion was presented before the vote to hire the selectman to DPW.
Kiley suggested the town implement a new hiring procedure that calls for written tests, screenings and background checks, on top of interviews. He also wants extra points given to Oxford residents and American military veterans.
“We should have a fair hiring process like most towns do,” he said. “It’s time for Oxford to start being more professional and stop giving jobs to friends and relatives.”