Town Manager Austin Faison has taken a leave of absence as of April 22. On April 27, Police Chief Terence Delehanty became the acting Town Manager.
Faison sent an email to the Town Council last Thursday, requesting a leave of absence of undetermined length through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In his letter to Council, he cited personal reasons stemming from the impact of his position, adding, “I don’t know if or when I will return.”
According to the Town Charter, the Town Manager is supposed to appoint an acting Town Manager whenever he is out of the office, but Faison did not do so in this case. For this reason, the Town Council held an emergency meeting on the evening of April 27, where it unanimously voted for Chief Delehanty to take over as acting Town Manager. The chief has served in this capacity before and has the support of the other department heads.
An acting town manager can only serve for 90 days, but can be reassigned for an additional 90 days by council. The chief will have limited authority in his role; he can’t hire personnel or sign contracts. He can, however, appoint an interim chief financial officer.
The Town’s CFO, Anna Freedman, left her position at the same time as Faison. However, Freedman’s departure was announced well in advance.
Faison’s specific reasons for leaving at this time are unclear, but it’s worth noting that some members of the Winthrop community have criticized his performance since he first started as Town Manager two and a half years ago. One resident, Karen Chavis, lambasted him in a prepared statement, which she read aloud at the last council meeting.
“No more laurel wreaths for the town manager,” she said. “He does not walk on water.”
Faison is also one of only three Black town managers in the state of Massachusetts, and some suspect that subtle and overt displays of racism may have played a role in his decision.
FMLA is unpaid leave. The Council has not officially accepted Faison’s request. However, he can use vacation time and sick time until that request is processed.
The Transcript reached out to Faison, his administrative assistant Laurisa Wojcik, and Chief Delehanty for comment, but did not hear back from any of them.