(Updated) Former Town Building Commissioner Resigns
(UPDATED at end of article.)
In March 2023 Marblehead Beacon published an article about the town’s Building Commissioner – John Albright – operating in that role since 2021 despite never completing the requisite testing, nor even registering to take the necessary exams. After 17 months on the job, his request for a further extension was denied by the overseeing authority – The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety’s Building Official Certification Committee.
As a result, Albright was moved into what Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer described as a “half-time hours” role as superintendent of public buildings, working with the assistance of other department heads until a replacement could be found. In the meantime, Marblehead Building Inspector Bob Ives – who also works as Swampscott’s building inspector – has been serving in the role of interim building commissioner. It is unclear if Ives will take on the permanent commissioner role, as a job opening has been posted. Marblehead Beacon reached out to Ives for comment but as of publication time had not heard back. (Ives reached out to Marblehead Beacon shortly after publications and the update may be seen below).
Earlier this week Marblehead Beacon learned that Albright had submitted a letter of resignation, with his last day scheduled for this Friday, July 28. We reached out to Albright for comment but as of publication time had not heard back.
During Albright’s tenure as building commissioner, an incident occurred in which a town custodian – Ed Medeiros – was exposed to asbestos, resulting in a Department of Labor Standards investigation, as well as union involvement. Marblehead Beacon broke that story in June 2022.
Arbitration on this case was ultimately denied for reasons that referenced the “meaning, interpretation, or application” of the relevant collective bargaining agreement. In the arbitrator’s decision, however, she noted that “at the time of these events, the Town had no protocols or procedures for asbestos, nor did it train its employees and managers – including those in the Building Department, which is charged with permitting and inspecting construction in Marblehead – in the identification and cleanup of asbestos.” The report went on to add, “That is surprising, to say the least. While it is true that the grievance is not arbitrable, the Union’s vigorous advocacy in the earlier steps of the grievance procedure has accomplished the beneficial purpose of bringing these deficiencies to the Town’s attention.”
A hearing with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations on the incident is expected to take place sometime this fall, according to the President of the Marblehead Municipal Employees’ Union, Terri Tauro. She communicated with Marblehead Beacon about Albright’s resignation, stating, “I am pleased that Mr. Albright will not have the opportunity to put my members in danger any longer.”
UPDATE 1:58 p.m.
After publication of our original article above, Interim Building Commissioner Bob Ives contacted Marblehead Beacon. “Mr. Albright did a great job,” he said. “Not everyone agreed about that, but that is always the case.” Asked about Albright not having completed the three requisite building commissioner examinations in the 17-plus months on the job, Ives said, “I can’t speak to that.”
Ives noted that he and others – including full-time Building Inspector Benjamin Lebowitz – have continued to focus on the zoning and inspectional services. Lebowitz is the newest member of the Building Department, and is “great, very knowledgeable and a really good fit,” according to Ives. Everyone working in this part of the Department, Ives shared, has kept the permitting process from becoming backlogged.
Other matters, such as “important issues like painting, roof work, and deferred maintenance of town buildings“ were in Albright’s domain once he was removed from his building commissioner job and placed into the role of superintendent of public buildings, said Ives. Such issues require knowledge of public bidding rules and other relevant procedures.
Ives has not thrown his hat in the ring again for the job of building commissioner. He actually retired from public service in 2016, he told Marblehead Beacon, but was brought back on a limited basis. Because of Commonwealth of Massachusetts rules associated with retirement, Ives has a cap on the number of hours he is permitted to work and amount he is able to receive. Accordingly, he said, the Town of Marblehead is aware that he will not be able to stay with the town much longer. In the meantime, he splits his time between Marblehead and the Town of Swampscott – where he works part-time as a building inspector. While he envisions the work expected of Marblehead’s building commissioner as something that could at some point be divided into two roles (one for permit-related matters and one for the upkeep of municipal buildings), for now, he said he is “optimistic that Marblehead will find someone” for the open job of building commissioner.