Michael J. Hartman
Town of Stoughton et al
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
Michael D. Ricciuti, Justice
Michael J. Hartman brings suit against the Town of Stoughton
and the members of its board of Selectmen (collectively, the
" Town"), alleging that he was not validly
terminated from his position as Stoughton Town Manager and
has been wrongfully prevented from performing his duties.
Before the Court is Hartman's motion for a preliminary
injunction, seeking to restrain and enjoin the Town from
preventing Hartman from performing his duties as Town Manager
unless and until he is dismissed from that position in
accordance with Article 4, § C4-1, of the Town Charter.
consideration of the parties' memoranda of law and oral
arguments, and for the reasons that follow, Hartman's
motion for a preliminary injunction is DENIED.
following relevant facts are alleged by Hartman or revealed
in the records submitted by the parties, concerning which
there appears to be no dispute.
employment agreement dated October 30, 2012, Hartman was
engaged for a three-year period to serve as Town Manager for
the Town. By a subsequent employment agreement dated April 1,
2014 (" the 2014 Agreement"), Hartman's
employment as Town Manager was extended until June 30, 2017.
3 of the 2014 Agreement set forth Hartman's term of
employment as running from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017.
Section 1 of the 2014 Agreement stated:
The Town Manager agrees to continue employment until June 30,
2017 . . . unless termination or resignation is effected as
provided in Section 14 below. Should the Town fail to notify
the Town Manager that the agreement will not be extended
within six (6) months of the expiration of the Agreement,
then the Agreement shall continue in full force and effect
for another one (1) year term and all compensation and
benefits shall remain in effect.
Section 14 of the 2014 Agreement, entitled "
Termination, " outlined the steps that Hartman agreed to
follow to resign his position, but added "
[n]otwithstanding any provision of this Agreement, the Town
Manager shall serve at the will of the Board of Selectman and
may be discharged from his employment in accordance with
Section C4-1 of the Town Charter of Stoughton." In the
event Hartman was discharged by the Town without cause, the
Town was obligated to pay him six months' salary.
Article 4, § C4-1, of the Town Charter, states:
The Town Manager shall serve at the will of the Selectman
except that a vote of a majority, plus one, of the full
membership of Selectmen shall be required to discharge him.
In the event of a discharge, he may request a public hearing
at which hearing the Selectmen must set forth their reasons
for discharging him and he may respond to those reasons if he
December 15, 2016, more than six months before the 2014
Agreement was to expire on June 30, 2017, the Selectman
notified Hartman by letter that the 2014 Agreement would not
be extended beyond June 30, 2017 (" December 2016
Notice"). The December 2016 Notice expressly added that,
" [c]onsequently, please note that your employment with
the Town will terminate on that date, unless sooner
terminated by you or the Town in accordance with the
Employment Agreement." Nothing in the letter suggested
that Hartman was discharged, with or without cause. Indeed,
the December 2016 Notice was the result of a meeting of the
Board of Selectmen held on December 15, 2016 at which time
the Selectmen voted 3-1 not to renew the 2014 Agreement. The
Selectmen did not vote to discharge Hartman at that meeting.
was not terminated pursuant to the 2014 Agreement or Section