Embattled Jackman Town Manager Tom Kawczynski, whose white separatist and anti-Islam views first came to light last week, has been fired. After meeting behind closed doors Tuesday morning, Jackman selectmen reached an agreement to part ways with Kawczynski, who said his "fight" has just begun.
It was standing room only in the Jackman Town Office when selectmen returned from a one hour private meeting with Kawczynski. Within minutes the short-lived saga that put the western Maine border town in the unwanted spotlight was over.
Selectman Alan Duplessis offered a motion to terminate Kawczynski's employment agreement without cause, effective immediately, and that "the town pay an additional settlement amount upon his signing a waiver and release, agreeing not to take any recourse or make any legal claim against the town of Jackman or its select board."
One member of the audience let out a small cheer. Others said they are relieved that Jackman can get back to its regular business. The town has been under intense scrutiny in the press and on social media ever since Kawczynski's efforts to create a "white homeland" were made public. Longtime resident Connie Guay said she was in attendance to stand up against hatred.
"When he put in the paper that Jackman didn't want Islamic people and to segregate and everything,” said Guay. “That is so wrong."
Resident Bill Frewley and Barbara Conard said they think the settlement is the best possible outcome, even despite the $30,000 payment to Kawczynski.
"It's unfortunate,” said Frewley, “but as we were just saying it's probably as much as we'd have to pay an attorney."
Conard agreed, "It's a good buyout."
"And the bad publicity is over with, right away,” said Frewley. “Hopefully, it's a quick turnaround.”
Kawczynski has held the post of town manager for the past seven months at a salary of about $49,000. But Town Attorney Warren Shay said that Kawczynski was still on probation, which meant selectmen could dismiss him during that time.
"He was originally a probationary employee, was extended long before this came up,” said Shay, ”They had some reservations and they chose at this point, with him in agreement, to terminate the agreement without cause."
Speaking to reporters and residents after the meeting, Kawczynski said he's not giving up his fight for free speech about civil rights. "I lost a job today," he said, "but I gained a cause."
Kawczynski added, "You have not had a voice up until now. I will speak for you. I am not a perfect man. I have many flaws. I have said things I regret but I do not regret this fight for one moment and this is just beginning."
Kawczynski declined to say whether he would remain in Jackman, although some residents like Bob Foster would prefer he go elsewhere.
"I'm not in favor of this person being here,” Foster said. “If I were him, I would feel - he's not welcome. He should realize that and go someplace else to try his little experiment."
Town officials said they will hire an outside firm to begin the search for the next town manager. Several residents said they welcome that move in order to make sure the next candidate is thoroughly vetted.