Building Commissioner Ordered to Resign: 17 Months Without Taking Exams
Last week Marblehead Beacon learned that the Town’s Building Commissioner, John Albright, has been operating in his role since 2021 without successfully scheduling or completing any of his mandated three examinations. State regulations permit the conditional appointment to this role for a period of 18 months, said Jeffrey Clemons, Vice Chair of the Building Official Certification Committee (BOCC). Approximately 17 months have elapsed, and according to a letter sent on March 13, 2023 by the BOCC to both Albright and Select Board Chair Moses Grader, “‘[t]he Committee has recommended Mr. Albright resign his appointment of inspector buildings/building commissioner for the Town of Marblehead.” Without an extension beyond the 18-month grace period that has nearly expired already, it would be “a violation of Massachusetts General Law…to serve as a building code enforcement official without attaining the required certification.”
Though Clemons would not speak about Albright’s case specifically, he told Marblehead Beacon that generally speaking, absent extenuating circumstances, a conditional building commissioner who has never taken even one of the requisite three exams 17 months into an 18-month grace period would not likely receive an extension. Earlier this month Albright sought an extension. And public records we obtained from the Commonwealth show that a unanimous vote took place earlier this month by the BOCC to deny Albright’s request for additional time beyond 18 months.
The BOCC noted in a March 13, 2023 letter to Albright that, “[t]he Committee members were able to have a discussion with you and Roger Ennis during the March 7, 2023 meeting. The Committee took into consideration all information discussed and submitted regarding your extension request, and voted to DENY your request for an extension of time.”
The BOCC is an arm of the Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Inspections. In order to be granted an extension for additional time to take and pass certain exams, building officials who are hired without having the proper certifications (including both inspectors and commissioners) may seek extensions in six-month increments, and “may, for cause, be granted an extension of time in order to comply, upon written petition.” When filing such an extension request, “[t]he conditional appointee shall state all reasons to substantiate the request for an extension of time.”
BOCC’s May 2022 meeting minutes note that Albright was “[a]ppointed, not yet certified, on October 4, 2021” and that his “[e]ighteen-month grace expires April 30, 2023.” Records we reviewed suggest that Albright was told via email as early as May 5, 2022 by the Office of Public Safety: “You were required to at least register for your first exam by April 30, 2022.” [Italics in email.] Three exams are required for the role of Building Commissioner.
Albright had not registered for any exams before that time, nor did he register in the ten months between then and now. It is unclear why Albright did not register for any of the three required exams during the 17 months in which he has served in the highest role within the Building Department, but he did send an email to the Office of Public Safety in January 2023 stating, “I’m writing this with my hat in my hand” and “[w]hen I began this job 16 months ago it seemed like an easy path forward to study after work and weekends.” He went on to say that “this may be the most challenging job I’ve ever held. We’re 20 years behind on the maintenance of the 8 Town buildings I’m responsible for. We’ve turned the Senior Clerk position three times, I’m on my second local inspector. Please don’t think I’m complaining or making excuses. It just never settles down.” Albright then asked for an additional 12 months to study for and take the three exams – a request that was denied, as “Mr. Albright has not demonstrated sufficient effort to comply with the certification exam schedule.”
We reached out last week and did not hear back from Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer, Select Board Chair Grader (because the Building Commissioner is “under the direct control of, and responsible to, the Board of Selectmen”), and Albright himself for comment, as well as for confirmation about next steps, whether he has resigned, and whether he will leave the office or be demoted to the role of building inspector (for which he is licensed).