Bar Harbor’s former town manager Kevin Sutherland had just two days in January to accept a separation agreement with the town if he wanted to receive a generous severance package.

The Jan. 24 separation agreement — which was drafted a day after the town council met in executive session to discuss Sutherland’s employment, and a day before Sutherland submitted his resignation — specified that Sutherland was resigning for “personal reasons.” The council has publicly cited the same reason for Sutherland’s resignation.

The agreement required Sutherland to resign “no later than 5:00 PM on Wednesday, January 25, 2022” in order to receive the severance package.

The document also said it was jointly adopted by the town and Sutherland because they wished “to provide for an orderly and amicable separation of their relationship.” No other details are included in the document.

The separation agreement and the severance package received by Sutherland in exchange for his timely resignation was first reported Thursday evening by the Quietside Journal.

Town officials on Friday declined to provide any additional information about Sutherland’s abrupt departure, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. Sutherland held the job for a little more than a year.

Sutherland’s contract called for him to be paid six months’ salary if he was terminated. However, it didn’t include a guaranteed severance if he resigned. In the approved agreement, Sutherland received 28 weeks’ pay — two more weeks’ than he would have received had he been fired. Both documents also specify that Sutherland would receive fringe benefits such as town contributions to his retirement and health insurance, and be paid for any accrued vacation time.

The dollar amount that Sutherland received as part of the severance package is not specified in the separation agreement. The Bangor Daily News submitted a Freedom of Access Act request to the town of Bar Harbor on Friday afternoon in order to determine how much money Sutherland was paid by the town, but the information was not available as of press time.

The town released copies of Sutherland’s three-year employment contract, which began on Jan. 3, 2022, as well as his separation agreement on Friday. Sutherland’s starting salary was $115,000 per year. That increases to $117,500 per year after his first six months on the job.

Sutherland’s contract also required the town to pay him an additional $250 per month to cover his mileage costs on the job, and to pay his costs for moving from Saco to Hancock County.

As Saco’s city administrator, a position he held from 2015 until the end of 2019, Sutherland had a history of conflicts with other city employees, according to media reports. During his year in Bar Harbor, there were no indications that he had similar problems with town staff.

However Sutherland was criticized in the past year by Mount Desert Island residents for how he dealt last summer with a protester  who drew graffiti on sidewalks, and for how the town was managing its cruise ship traffic.

Sutherland met in executive session on Sept. 6 with the Bar Harbor Town Council to discuss how he handled the graffiti situation, but what kind of feedback he got from council members over the matter has not been disclosed.

On Jan. 23, after meeting again with Sutherland in executive session during a special town council meeting, members of the council voted 6-0 to “authorize the Council Chair to execute a release agreement and notice relevant to the personnel matter on tonight’s agenda in substantially the same form as presented in executive session,” according to minutes of the meeting.

The agenda for the Jan. 23 special meeting listed an executive session for an unspecified personnel matter as its only item of regular business. The published agenda did not include any advance notice of any possible vote that would be held after the board met in executive session.

Town officials have said they are working with the Maine Municipal Association to find a new long-term replacement for Sutherland. In the meantime, Finance Director Sarah Gilbert is serving as Bar Harbor’s interim town manager.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....