FOXBORO — Selectmen have turned to an experienced hand to help refocus the town’s troubled finance department.
George Samia of Middleboro, who until recently held the dual role of town administrator/chief financial officer in East Bridgewater, was unanimously appointed Foxboro’s new finance director on July 15.
Samia, who joined East Bridgewater as town accountant in 1994 before being elevated to the town administrator position 10 years later, was selected from more than 90 applicants, according to Assistant Town Manager Michael Johns.
Johns, who led the job search in his role as Foxboro’s human resources director, said a screening panel culled the field to a dozen qualified candidates, of whom five ultimately were interviewed for the position.
Describing him as “forward-thinking and thoughtful,” Selectwoman Leah Gibson said Samia clearly distinguished himself from the other four finalists during those interviews.
“It was clear to me that George was the top candidate,” Gibson said.
School Business Administrator William Yukna also served on the screening committee that recommended Samia to selectmen from what he termed an “A-plus” pool of candidates.
“I think George does have a lot to offer this community,” Yukna said. “I really think this is a good move.”
Joining Samia as the newest addition to the town’s financial leadership is Marie Ann Almodovar of Central Falls, R.I., who was named the town’s new director of accounting.
The vote to appoint Almodovar also was unanimous.
A 2011 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Almodovar comes to Foxboro from Concord, where she served as assistant town accountant for the past four years.
Characterizing herself as “a self-learner,” Almodovar joined Concord as an account clerk shortly after graduating from U-Mass and swiftly rose through positions in both collections and accounting.
“I’m a team player,” she told board members. “I’m able to work with people.”
Noting that Concord has a reputation for strong fiscal management as well as for developing highly regarded personnel, Gibson termed Almodovar’s advancement over the past eight years “very impressive.”
In fact, as Johns pointed out, Almodovar was drawn to Foxboro by opportunities for professional development.
“We pride ourselves as an organization that trains professionals,” Johns said. “That was something Marie was attracted by. We feel that we are as good for her as she is for us.”
Samia and Almodovar come to a department in transition following the December 2018 departure of former finance chief Randy Scollins and, more recently, Christine Dupras, who had been leading the department in his absence.
During that period Christopher Laviolette of Franklin, who served five years as chief finance officer in Bellingham, was hired in a temporary capacity to help provide additional stability and experience.
Further seasoning the town’s budgetary stew have been growing calls to rein in municipal spending from the advisory committee. At odds with fiscal direction established by the town’s administrative leadership, this chorus reached a crescendo at the annual May town meeting, where voters withheld funding for roughly $213,000 in capital and personnel expense — including $26,500 in central administration salary costs.
“I think there are going to be some changes in how we do the municipal budget,” Selectman Edward O’Leary told Samia.
With that in mind, Chairman Mark Elfman urged Samia to arrange for an early meeting with members of the advisory committee.
“I think it would be great for you to sit down with the [advisory committee] and hear what they have to say,” Elfman said.
Peppering Samia with a series of questions about his experiences in East Bridgewater, Selectman David Feldman asked for a commitment to a fiscal policy that prioritizes using available cash reserves to avoid borrowing whenever possible while reducing retirement benefit liability for town employees.
Feldman also questioned Samia about the circumstances leading to his departure from East Bridgewater last spring.
While avoiding specifics, Samia confirmed that he had negotiated a separation agreement after East Bridgewater selectmen opted against renewing his contract.
According to a copy of that agreement obtained by the Brockton Enterprise, Samia was paid $70,049 upon his departure, which reflected $35,022 for the remaining three months of his 2016-19 contract, plus another three months of pay, $35,027.
Samia was also paid $10,354 for unused vacation days and $30,504 for unused sick days — a total of $110,907 — and was allowed to retain health insurance until Sept. 30 or until he secured new employment, whichever came first.
Both appointments voted Monday night are considered conditional job offers, according to Town Manager William Keegan, who will negotiate an employment contract with Samia. The finance director position was advertised with a salary range of $115,000 to $130,000.
As director of accounting, Almodovar’s job offer falls on a salary scale ranging from $77,700 to $92,850.
Asked by Elfman if he had any questions for Almodovar, Samia suggested the two would work well as a leadership team in the finance department.
“I think we’ll probably hit it off pretty well,” he said.