The Fault, Dear Residents, Belongs to Many

When it was announced at the April 23 City Council meeting that Scott Pickup had “resigned” his position as City Manager, effective 11:59 p.m., it was not entirely unexpected, but it still sent shock waves through the community.

Published May 2, 2014 5:00 AM
4 min read

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When it was announced at the April 23 City Council meeting that Scott Pickup had “resigned” his position as City Manager, effective 11:59 p.m., it was not entirely unexpected, but it still sent shock waves through the community.

When it was announced at the April 23 City Council meeting that Scott Pickup had “resigned” his position as City Manager, effective 11:59 p.m., it was not entirely unexpected, but it still sent shock waves through the community.

While it’s reassuring to have Rye’s longest serving City Manager, Frank Culross, come back from retirement to serve on an interim basis, it’s his third time since 2003. When Culross retired in 2000, the City hired Julia Novak, who left quietly but cited difficulties being allowed to lead the City, with City Council approval, per the City Charter. Culross stepped back in until the City hired Paul Shew. Shew was fired in 2009 after a series of missteps, notably asking a psychiatrist to visit the home of an older resident who repeatedly came to Council meetings with the claim that his neighbor’s building project had changed the watercourse on his property. He pled for  the City to review the neighbor’s permit process and restore the water to the pond on his Forest Avenue property. The resident eventually sued the City after repeated attempts. Culross was again brought in.

Pickup was hired as Rye’s Assistant City Manager in 2005, and after a nationwide search, was hired as City Manager by the Council in the summer of 2010.
So what went wrong? Primarily the Rye Golf Club scandal.

If you’re new in town, the former Golf Club Manager, Scott Yandrasevich, who was hired long before Pickup became City Manager, stands accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Club’s coffers. Yandrasevich was recently indicted by a grand jury. The theft occurred slowly and over a period of years.

Sadly, Pickup seems to have been selected as the fall guy for that baleful blip in Rye’s history.

It would have been a lot better for Rye’s future if we had kept Pickup on. He led the City through the worst financial crisis since the Depression, cutting jobs and asking City staff to work harder — and they have.

Laying the blame for the Golf Club debacle on Pickup is patently unfair. Could he have acted sooner? Undoubtedly. Did he work overtime to rectify matters to the degree he could. Absolutely.

What’s important for every resident to consider is the degree to which previous City Councils and Rye Golf Club Commission members let matters lie at Rye Golf Club for years, despite periodically questioning the balance sheet, the inventory numbers, which Yandrasevich adroitly never fully answered or presented.
At a Rye Golf Club budget workshop on November 18, 2009, Mayor Steve Otis offered “Congratulations for following wise business practices…. The faith the Council put in Scott [Yandrasevich] to run Whitby Castle was justified.” Councilman Joe Sack thanked Otis, Yandrasevich, and the members of the Commission, before saying, “The fact that you have kept dues to a zero percent increase is commendable.” Councilman Mack Cunningham said newspaper articles in The Rye Record characterized the losses at Whitby Castle as a black hole. “How could it be a black hole if it’s being run so efficiently?” Councilman Andy Ball added, “Congratulations all around for a good job all around. We had faith that it would happen … it appears that the call was well justified despite the criticism. Good job on the Castle.”

During the November 22, 2010 City budget review, Councilman Sack, then the Council liaison to the Rye Golf Club Commission, said to Yandrasevich: “I know what a great job you guys are doing there.”

Fast forward to 2012, when, after months of private investigation, resident Leon Sculti presented his findings to the City and the Commission on the pattern of theft by Yandrasevich. The City then hired an outside attorney to investigate.

Joe Sack was elected Mayor in 2013. Leon Sculti and Mack Cunningham were elected as Rye Golf Club Commission members in 2013.

Rye Golf Club has turned the corner (see articles on pages 1 and 5) and is moving forward with a new manager, a new caterer, a new snack bar operator and more.

Meanwhile, Scott Pickup is the odd man out. He takes the fall for the Rye Golf scandal, when three other City Managers and previous Golf Club Commissions and City Councils failed to provide sufficient oversight of the Golf Club, despite the fact that the numbers never added up.

We don’t need to remember the past, unless it clouds the future, as it does over the forced resignation of Scott Pickup.

In a good conversation with Mayor Joe Sack on Wednesday, in which we discussed a number of important issues — whether the Council needs to add more from its contingency fund to repair streets badly damaged over the winter, how to improve the poor state of retail in downtown Rye, and the City’s position on SPI — he said, “Luckily Frank [Culross] is available to us. When the dust settles, we’re going to have the figure out the process for Frank’s successor.”

Let us go forward with strength, fairness, and thought.

 

 

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