Foxborough selectmen have decided to buy out the balance of the town manager’s contract — not a surprise considering the tension that has built since they agreed in May not to renew Kevin Paicos’s contract.
What is a surprise is that the deal is expected to cost the town nearly $500,000, not only to cover about $200,000 for Paicos’s salary and benefits for the next 11 months, but also to compensate the town clerk as acting town manager, cover the cost of a new employee in the town clerk’s office, and include pay later this year for a new town manager.
Selectmen voted on Tuesday to end their shaky relationship with Paicos, 60, which broke down in the spring when he failed to return from a two-week military leave, forcing them to name Town Clerk Bob Cutler as the acting town executive. After a month of closed-door negotiations involving a labor attorney, they announced an agreement that pays Paicos to leave, but also asks him to come back briefly, if needed, during the transition.
The selectmen offered few details after announcing the buyout, but board chairman Mark Sullivan said conversations will take place soon about what comes next.
“At this moment, we just need to calm the waters,” he said.
Selectmen and Paicos released a statement that referred to the common goal of ensuring that the town’s interests “in pending matters” are fully protected “and that there is a smooth transition in the office.”
“The board thanks Mr. Paicos for his service to the town,” the statement said. “Mr. Paicos thanks the board and the citizens of Foxborough for the opportunity to serve as its town manager.”
But some residents criticized the costly decision.
“I can tell you this: All hell’s going to break loose,” said Dick Heydecker, a local activist and self-described foe of unnecessary town spending. “No taxpayer is going to be happy about this.”
Heydecker said officials should have anticipated problems with Paicos, a former manager in Ashburnham, Easton, and Hingham, who seemed a magnet for turmoil.
Paicos replaced Andrew Gala in Foxborough in 2010 when the quiet, 30-year administrator retired. There was a difference in styles, Heydecker said.
“There is a saying that the good Lord gave us two ears and a mouth,’’ he said. “Andy used the former. Kevin was the latter.”
In a later interview, Sullivan said that local concerns about the expense of buying out Paicos’s contract are understandable but that residents have to remember some selectmen were not in office when Paicos was hired.
“This is something we inherited,” he said. “We have had to make tough decisions and move forward in a different direction.”
Paicos was embroiled in a number of hot-button controversies while in Foxborough — many with the town’s largest taxpayer, The Kraft Group. Fights ranged from disagreements over shared billboard revenue on Route 1 to Paicos’s public stance against a $1 billion casino project proposed by the Krafts and Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, which was eventually withdrawn.
At one point, former selectmen chairman Larry Harrington wanted Paicos placed under a gag order, and potentially censured. Harrington was later voted out of office.
A spokesman for Robert Kraft, who owns the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The chairman of the town’s advisory committee, which oversees local finances, declined to comment.
Some community members cut Paicos some slack, but did not let him off the hook.
“Kevin Paicos didn’t create the problems our town has had recently, but his management style exacerbated the situation,” said Pattiann Malynn, a local blogger.
Foxborough needs a consensus-builder who does not need the spotlight, she said, and who can lead a team and respect the culture and history of the town.
“As we have learned the hard way, a poor hire can have a lasting and expensive effect,” she said.
Former selectwoman Lynda Walsh acknowledged the expensive buyout but urged residents not to point fingers. Better to learn from it and move on, she said.
Still, Walsh said she was surprised selectmen gave Paicos a 2.5 percent raise this spring after a less-than-stellar performance review.
“I suspect we will have more answers when the minutes from the past several executive sessions are released,” she said.
Paicos had nothing but praise for the town and its leaders on his way out.
In a phone interview, he lauded his former employees, who he said helped him save the town millions.
“It was a joy to work there,’’ he said, speaking to the Globe for the first time since May 29. Selectmen were very generous “and they treated me and my family well.”
“I have no regrets,’’ he added. “I am very satisfied in what we accomplished together.”
Paicos said he is set to retire next year but may look for another job in either the public or private sector.
“What I won’t be doing is sitting at home on my thumbs,’’ he said. “That’s not my style.”
On Tuesday, selectmen also voted to give Cutler a $1,098 weekly pay increase while he is acting town manager, and also approved $6,588 in retroactive payments to him for the past six weeks in that role.
Sullivan said Cutler in the short term will focus on negotiating union contracts, cleaning up Town Hall issues, and reestablishing relations with the Krafts.