Longtime Harbormaster Cullen Resigns

by | Apr 28, 2020

The Town Council had been poised to vote on his dismissal

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Jim Cullen. Credit: Jeff Stevens

Jim Cullen, who has served as the town’s harbormaster for most of the past 30 years, resigned in a letter to the Town Council Monday, just hours before the council was to vote on his dismissal. The position of harbormaster is seasonal – the harbormaster works during boat season, roughly May to October. In 2019, Cullen earned $11,970 ($25 an hour). 

The action comes after Cullen’s boat sank in October and he filed for the insurance claim through the town. The town has a harbormaster boat, but had been insuring Cullen’s boat in addition to its own boat for the past four years as a backup to the town’s vessel, which had been prone to breaking down. The town bought a new boat in 2018 but Cullen’s boat continued to be insured by the town while, Cullen said in December, he outfitted the new boat and made sure it would operate well. 

After a season on the water with the new boat, Cullen was satisfied it was fully operational. Then, on Oct. 12, his personal boat was found mostly submerged while tied up at the town dock. The cause of the foundering remains undetermined. Read more HERE.

Cullen contacted the insurance company and put in for the $15,000 claim, but because the boat was insured by the town, the check was sent to the town. And that’s when the then-new Town Manager, Andrew Nota, learned of the unorthodox arrangement. Typically a person’s private vehicle or craft is not insured by a municipality. 

When Cullen did not receive the check for $15,000, he visited Nota in his office and both parties have said the conversation did not go well. Cullen expected to receive the full $15,000. Nota wanted a valuation on Cullen’s boat. Cullen had, meanwhile, bought his boat back from the insurer for $1,300, then put more money into it, expecting the insurance money. 

At Monday’s virtual Town Council meeting, Cullen said, “I have very little to say at this point…. It’s up to you to do the right thing and reimburse me for my losses. I expect to hear from you.”

On Tuesday, Nota said the town solicitor had been in contact with both Cullen and his lawyer, seeking the boat’s valuation, and had gotten no response. 

“We’re very prepared to make Cullen whole,” said Nota. “But that’s not to say I don’t have many unanswered questions. I’m putting all those questions aside because I think it’s the fair and appropriate thing to do to make him whole.” But, Nota added, “That’s not cutting him a check for $15,000. It’s to value his 1990, 24-foot, banana boat. When we get that valuation, we can do that.” 

Nota said he’d already interviewed candidates to fill the harbormaster position for the 2020 season and he anticipated having a hire on the next Town Council meeting agenda. 

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