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Current, Former Wayland Officials Criticize Selectmen Over Turkington Firing

In a lengthy letter, current and former Wayland officials expressed concern over the selectmens' "lack of remorse" in firing the former town administrator.

At left, Selectman Ed Collins, at right Selectman Tony Boschetto
At left, Selectman Ed Collins, at right Selectman Tony Boschetto

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was submitted to Wayland Patch.

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SELECTMEN LACK REMORSE

When three Wayland Selectmen maneuvered the firing of Town Administrator Fred Turkington this past August, it seemed that town government had hit an absolute low point. However, the subsequent behavior of Selectmen Tony Boschetto and Ed Collins has done nothing to improve the situation. Despite widespread citizen anger and dismay at their actions, and despite the Attorney General’s strongly worded finding of an Open Meeting Law violation, Boschetto and Collins continue to show a shocking lack of contrition. They have demonstrated a continued arrogance and a complete lack of understanding as to why so many residents are upset.

Back when we wrote our Sept. 2 guest column, “Abuse of Power by Three of Wayland’s Selectmen,” we could not have possibly imagined the full debacle that would unfold as more and more bad decisions and mounting expenses ensued.  Equally important has been the remarkably poor conduct and judgment by the three members of the Board of Selectmen (Doug Leard has since resigned citing poor health) as they have tried to avoid accountability and continue to refuse to acknowledge what they have done. 

The damage they have caused our community has been made inestimably worse through their efforts to make the issue disappear:

 ·      They have refused to provide any meaningful explanation for the sudden firing of the town’s consistently well-reviewed and highly regarded Town Administrator.

·      They have tried to quash public comment on the matter and, at times, were openly hostile to citizens offering comments.

·      They repeatedly chose to meet out of public view in executive session--- in particular, after they opted to have the town hire special counsel to represent them to the Attorney General. Although permissible, this is unprecedented by the Wayland Board of Selectmen in Open Meeting Law (OML) cases.

·      Between the hiring of special counsel to help them defend themselves and payment of the Town Administrator’s salary and benefits, to date Boschetto and Collins have cost the town more than $255,000, much of which is unbudgeted.

New and disturbing facts emerge since August.

In response to a citizen’s OML complaint, the Attorney General’s Office found that the Board did, in fact, commit a violation. The language used in the decision was appropriately harsh, but perhaps the most troubling finding is that “…Mr. Boschetto appears to have been intentionally vague about the nature of this topic.”

Boschetto then attempted to justify his “intentional vagueness” regarding the Town Administrator’s termination by claiming that any distribution of his motion prior to the meeting would “not have been appropriate” under OML. However, the AG disagreed with Mr. Boschetto’s misinterpretation.  As acting chair, Boschetto’s lack of understanding of the Open Meeting Law is disturbing.

Although the AG did not have enough hard evidence to find prior deliberation between then-Chair Leard, Boschetto and Collins, the decision’s harsh wording serves to validate the opinion expressed by many residents that these three selectmen were clearly not exonerated.

Similarly false are any claims that voters elected Mr. Boschetto to terminate the Town Administrator. In fact there was never any hint of that in the public statements of his campaign. It is revisionist history to invoke a previously mentioned “new direction” as justification for this action.

And last, the assertion by Boschetto that the AG’s ruling holds far-ranging consequences across the Commonwealth pertaining to agenda-setting are groundless and self-serving. By any measure, the language of the AG’s decision does not in any way exonerate the behavior of the three members of the Board of Selectmen last August and September. 

There is another possible consequence of the firing of the Town Administrator. Some critics of Mr. Turkington also opposed the creation of the Town Administrator position when it was first adopted at the 2004 Town Meeting. A multi-year review of government structure commissioned by the town, known as the Maximus Report, recommended it as essential to a better-functioning town government. Those opposed to the Town Administrator position favor a weakened, less efficient structure, such as we had with a Town Secretary.

The future of Wayland is in the hands of those who vote.

In its editorial “Ambush in Wayland,” The Metrowest Daily News aptly expressed the reaction of many Wayland citizens to the firing: “Cutting the people – not to mention two-fifths of the Board of Selectmen – out of a decision this important is a grave disservice to the community. Refusing to give an explanation for his termination is unfair to Turkington and smacks of arrogance.” They added, “Wayland deserves an explanation from its selectmen, and a promise that they will recommit to transparency and public participation in local government.”

Four months later, there have been no explanations, promises of transparency, or expressions of remorse from Boschetto or Collins. To the contrary, by all indications, if the situation were to arise again they would do exactly the same thing.

The recent watershed events underscore the importance of every resident’s participation in the electoral process.  As we have seen in the past few years, the consequences of low voter turnout during town elections can be quite dramatic.  

In the coming weeks, Wayland will be kicking off a new election cycle culminating with the April 2 town election during which three members of the Board of Selectmen will be elected. We urge you to learn about the candidates and what they truly stand for. And it is essential to make sure they possess the experience, character, and judgment that all of us in Wayland deserve. We hope that every registered voter will commit to being a part of that very important selection process.


-Lea Anderson, current chair of the High School Building Committee, former member of the School Committee,

-Malcolm Astley, current member of the School Committee,

-John Bladon, former chair and member of the Board of Selectmen,

-Bruce Cummings, former chair and member of the Board of Assessors,

-Jeff Dieffenbach, former chair and member of the School Committee, former member of the Finance Committee,

-Ben Downs, current member of the Audit Committee,

-Tom Fay, former chair and member of the Board of Selectmen,

-Susan Pope, former State Representative and former member of the Board of Selectmen, the School Committee and the Finance Committee and current president of the Friends of the Council on Aging,

-Rod Fletcher, former member of the Finance Committee,

-Lori Frieling, former chair and member of the School Committee

-Nancy Funkhouser, current member of the Finance Committee

-Louis Jurist, former chair and member of the School Committee

-Cherry Karlson, current member and former chair of the Finance Committee

-James Karlson, former chair and member of the Board of Health

-Bob Lentz, former chair and member of the Finance Committee

-Steve Lesser, former member of the Finance Committee

-Megan Lucier, former chair and member of the Conservation Commission

-Sam Peper, former chair and member of the Finance Committee

-John Perten, former chair and member of the Zoning Board of Appeals

-Chris Riley, former chair and member of the Finance Committee and current chair of the Audit Committee

-Richard Stack, former member of the Finance Committee,

-Bill Steinberg, former chair and member of the Finance Committee and former chair and member of the Planning Board,

Kathie Steinberg, current member of the Historic District Commission,

-Michael Tichnor, former chair and member of the Board of Selectmen and former member of the Finance Committee,

-Ellen Tohn, Former member of the Conservation Commission,

-Nick Willard, current member of the Personnel Board.

This letter expresses the views of each individual above and does not represent any town board or committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jeff Baron January 09, 2014 at 07:04 AM
Or otherwise stated...signed "the former majority/SOS". We get it, you're mad you were unseated and you want it back. However, when/if you want to start questioning character and judgment of fellow citizens, be careful of the glass houses you live in!
Cynthia Hill January 09, 2014 at 07:49 AM
Please at least identify the Selectmen correctly. The Selectman on the left is ED COLLINS..... This subject has had it's day. Don't you all think moving the town forward is in best interest of our residents ~ agree or not, it's over folks. The snarky comments only drive a wedge between us. I thought Wayland was better than this. Some of you should be setting positive examples instead of foot stomping and name calling.
Ryan Grannan-Doll (Editor) January 09, 2014 at 08:21 AM
Hi Cynthia, It's fixed.
Wayland Transparent January 09, 2014 at 09:31 AM
Anyone else see the resemblance to the character in Men In Black and the picture of Tony?
responsive leadership January 09, 2014 at 09:50 AM
Isn't it about time that Mr. Boschetto and Mr. Collins explain why immediately removing the town administrator was necessary to move the town in a "new direction"? Mr. Boschetto only explained his "new direction" in a guest column in the Town Crier on Sept 5. To date, there has been no discussion by the Selectmen on Tony's vision, let alone a consensus. He gave no explanation as to why removal of the town administrator was needed to advance his agenda or why taxpayers should shoulder the burden without giving Mr. Turkington the opportunity to work under what Mr. Boschetto and others believe is a mandate for change. Ironically, the same contract often cited as mutually agreed by Mr. Turkington and the Selectmen required the town administrator to give 60 days notice if HE wanted to pursue another job. Too bad the majority of the board didn't give him the same courtesy, not better yet, not renewed his contract. Instead, the last five months have not healed the rift in town over the deceptive actions of three Selectmen. One has resigned; the remainder have tried to tweak the job description to reduce the effectiveness of any who follow. Quite a legacy for Mr. Collins and Mr. Boschetto - a new direction divined without discussion; a community deeply divided; more than $250K wasted by the self proclaimed champions of fiscal accountability. It will take years to recover from this fiasco.
Jon Dough January 09, 2014 at 09:51 AM
"Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after they have committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent." Remorse, LM_O! Tony had a MANDATE to fire the TA; neither he, Doug or Ed have anything to be remorseful about. Let's talk about remorse; these signators were voted out of office because they let the former TA run roughshod over the town. They should write a letter about how shameful and remorseful they feel about violating their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers who revolted and called for a special town meeting in November 2011, to return millions of dollars of excess money they were squandering in the town's cash reserves; while at the same time people’s homes were being foreclosed upon, and forcefully shutting-off the water of a WWII veteran whose house subsequently burned down and was asphyxiated by a fire. Where’s the apology afor these actions and inactions Ms. Pope, Mr. Fay, and Mr. Tichnor? You were the leaders of the town during this period, no?
John January 09, 2014 at 10:13 AM
It's interesting that the signers of this letter would suddenly decide to revive what was never much of a story to begin with, despite all the press they were able to muster up over it. It's important to note that most of these folks ware completely silent when some of their own blatantly broke the OML 3 years ago and then lied about it. Their outrage is quite selective. It's also important to note that many of the names listed above were directly responsible for, supportive of, or silent on the closure of Loker School in 2008. They also had little to say about the $10 million that had been squirreled away inappropriately and mysteriously, without even FinCom's knowledge, under the watch of our fired Town Administrator. Fred Turkington's departure represents a clean break from an old boys club atmosphere that existed in Wayland politics and good as that is for the town, it has left some people without the power they used to have.
responsive leadership January 09, 2014 at 10:15 AM
To be clear, the TA didn't run "roughshod" over the town. Town meeting adopted a bylaw creating the position and expecting coordination between boards and among town departments. The TA was forced to push back against those thwarting the will of Town Meeting - those who wanted to marginalize Town Center and kill the turf field project, among other things. The DPW bylaw passed town meeting. The citizens voted to expand the TA's authority to manage public works and recreation functions. Town Meeting passed a bylaw allowing for funds to be deposited in the OPEB fund. It wasn't until recent town meetings that restrictions were placed on both staff and elected officials. Money wasn't squandered; it remained in reserves against future obligations, reducing the burden on taxpayers. The record of town officials since the TA was hired was outstanding.
John January 09, 2014 at 10:31 AM
Long before his termination, there were many examples of what one might call his "running roughshod". Examples can be found on the Town Administrator page of WaylandTransparency.com . The money that "remained in reserves against future obligations" was put there 6 years ahead of schedule. Would you pay your taxes 6 years in advance? Yes, this $6,000,000 was squandered, because it was money that should have remained in taxpayers' pockets until it was needed. Instead, it was put into a zero interest earning irrevocable trust. I continue to applaud the efforts of the 3 Selectmen who have broken ties with the bad policies of the past.
responsive leadership January 09, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Take a look at waylandtransparency and compare it to the OPEB page on the town website. Only $2M was moved from funds appropriated at town meeting for health insurance obligations, money that was LEGALLY moved to the OPEB fund. John and waylandtransparency.com repeat the $6M lie, but doesn't make it true. Neither the BoPw or the RecComm can evaluate the department directors - these positions are appointed by the TA. The record shows Mr. Turkington elicited feedback from these boards and pledged to include it in the job reviews. If anything, he spent most of his time trying to appease folks who seem to believe that input = getting your own way. The TA had to work around those trying to undermine or obfuscate the votes of town meeting that worked to streamline town government. Mr. Turkington always worked at the direction of the BOS. Unfortunately, if one believes that the direction of the BOS changed in April 2013 with Tony's election, he was never afforded the opportunity to lead that effort. Until the current crowd understands that professional administrators work for the will of the Selectmen, then Wayland will have a revolving door in the TA's office. Someone wrote here in September defending the BO3 that Turkington should have expected it the way Elizabeth Warren hired new staff after defeating Scott Brown. That misses the entire premise of hiring a professional administrator who should remain in place regardless of the change in political direction.
Ben Downs January 09, 2014 at 02:22 PM
@Responsive Can you please clarify your first 4 sentences? My browser now warns me against going to waylandtransparency so I can not see what they have posted and I am not familiar with the OPEB page on the town website? I think that you have stated that john and that other site have not been truthful about the OPEB funding!
responsive leadership January 09, 2014 at 02:41 PM
Sure. Go to: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Selectmen/OPEBExplain.pdf It documents every deposit to the OPEB fund. All but $2M was specifically appropriated by town meeting. $2M was transferred from appropriated health insurance line-items to OPEB rather than reverting to free cash. That is what waylandtransparency.com is crowing about - plus inflating it to $6M!
Ben Downs January 09, 2014 at 03:16 PM
Thanks Responsive. That was very interesting! @John - care to explain yourself? Possibly correct your website?
WaylandTransparency.com January 09, 2014 at 03:21 PM
Mr. Downs has made this claim before, in order to discourage people from visiting WaylandTransparency.com . However, it's not true. We have never had a problem or heard from anyone who has. The $6,000,000 overpayment is clearly illustrated in this graph: http://www.waylandtransparency.com/assets/STM/article_comparisons_dor_web.jpg This one will also be helpful to understand how our money was mishandled under our former TA and previous BOS: http://www.waylandtransparency.com/assets/STM/free%20cash%20by%20town_web.jpg An explanation of what went on back then can be found here: http://www.waylandtransparency.com/11.17.11_stm.php
Richard P Turner January 09, 2014 at 03:55 PM
It is time to let this issue go and move on the previous TA is gone and is not coming back he did a lot on his own with out various board and committees being properly informed he acted like a town manager rather than a town administrator. I find that some these comments very disrespectful and very caustic this is not the Wayland remember again put it to rest
Jeff Dieffenbach January 09, 2014 at 03:59 PM
Richard, with all due respect, "letting go" and "moving on" doesn't seem to be in Wayland's DNA. See: WVN, ES reconfiguration, various OML violations, etc. One difference: those other matters have played out. This one hasn't--Mr. Boschetto and Mr. Collins STILL have not explained themselves with respect to "new direction;" Mr. Boschetto has not responded to questions about the AG's ruling that he intentionally created a misleading agenda item on the way to ambushing the TA and two of his fellow board members.
Ben Downs January 09, 2014 at 04:17 PM
@waylandtransparency - When I type your website into my browser this is what shows up "WARNING: All domains on this website should be considered dangerous." If I look closely at the places you want people to go they appear to be about free cash not about OPEB and have nothing to do with a $6 million payment.
WaylandTransparency.com January 09, 2014 at 04:45 PM
Ben, it's funny that the ONLY two people who have reported this problem are you and the anonymous poster that hijacked our name, who calls himself Wayland Transparent. While that solves one mystery, it still doesn't explain why you alone would be having this problem. Even our web hosting company says they see no problem at all with the site. Would you like us to send someone over to your house to see what your problem might be?
Ben Downs January 09, 2014 at 05:18 PM
Hmm, I can not speak for Wayland Transparent (although I have never read a post by them that says your website is dangerous) but I do know that my browser takes me to a website warning me about websites with malware and identity theft when I enter waylandtransparency.com. You would be welcome to come to my house after you answer the question about why you posted links about free cash ("free%20cash%20by%20town_web.jpg") and said it had to do with OPEB payments and if you identify yourself.
responsive leadership January 10, 2014 at 07:13 AM
Mr. Turner suggests that the TA did things like a town manager rather than a town administrator. From my vantage point, he advanced the interests advocated by the Board of Selectmen, consistent with the goals and objectives the board established. Most of the skirmishes were with committees trying to marginalize or oppose the direction of the Selectmen. He became too closely identified with one group of officials. Sadly, the odd coalition of nit-pickers, those opposed to authority being given to committees and staff rather than exercised by town meeting, those believing it was HH's turn to close instead of Loker, and self-proclaimed fiscal watchdogs that took control of the BOS in the past year wanted a trophy for their wall. Turkington became the scapegoat. I still wonder what outcome in Wayland town government is now different with the former TA moved out of the way? What are some examples that reflect the "new direction" that was so critical to justify paying the TA to sit home and collect a years' salary?
Jeff Baron January 10, 2014 at 01:35 PM
So, you agree that the Selectmen are in charge of direction? Well, then the direction of the majority of the Selectmen at the time the TA was dismissed without cause (in a manner contractually dictated), his direction did not match theirs. Simple as that. As for the rest of the characterizations of thoughtful citizens who pay attention to what's going on in Wayland (odd coalitions, nitpickers, etc), they are without merit as the person doing the judging doesn't even believe in his or her own words enough to identify themself in the course of speaking them. Have the fortitude to stand behind your opinions.
responsive leadership January 10, 2014 at 01:57 PM
You missed the point. The TA was never given the opportunity to follow the "new direction" of the Selectmen. Mr. Boschetto took office after April's town meeting, hardly sufficient time to render judgment on the TA's performance. Board members were asked to submit goals for coming year - curiously, neither Mr. Collins nor Mr. Boschetto did. The termination came just as the goals were to be discussed. The Board never discussed or adopted a new direction, let alone give Mr. Turkington the opportunity to try to follow it (to the extent it actually differs from the then-BOS adopted direction) before terminating his contract. To date, no one has offered an example - a different policy, different budget priorities, a different approach to governance - that has been chosen by the BOS since they terminated the TA. So it is hard to understand what goals they thought the TA wouldn't implement or what basis they came to the conclusion that he somehow wouldn't implement the "new direction." Absent an explanation, the TA termination was a symbolic change. Then again, perhaps Mr. Collins and Mr. Boschetto have a more expansive agenda to implement that has been delayed as an expedient measure given the public outcry (and the lack of a deciding third vote of Mr. Leard). Then again, they could be waiting for the next election to pick up that third vote. The current and former town officials have it right - this election is critical for the future direction of Wayland. Elections do have consequences!
responsive leadership January 10, 2014 at 02:10 PM
BTW - yes the contract provided for a buy-out. The 12 months severance was a high bar to make its use something that required careful deliberation and strong justification. It also provided for non-renewal based on a performance evaluation. At no time did any of the current selectmen discuss dissatisfaction with the performance of the TA. Mr. Boschetto make his motion without evaluating the TA. The 18 minute deliberation, if one is to believe no prior notice or forethought was given by either Mr. Collins or Mr. Leard, is incredible given the magnitude and the financial consequences of the decision. The new direction and mandate espoused by some suggests consensus on dissatisfaction and change, even if one were to believe that the two Selectmen who voted with Mr. Boschetto merely seized on the one vehicle presented to them to express their view on the TA prior to doing so at his performance review the next month. Even if measured by that yardstick, all three Selectmen failed to exercise due diligence on a matter of such magnitude. Contrast their hasty vote with the deliberate and measured approach taken to respond to the OML complaints made by citizens who rightfully felt deceived by Mr. Boschetto's unclear agenda item. Critics of the "SOS crowd" lament expediency at the expense of process. I guess the ends do justify the means when Tony and his supporters take the reins of power.
Jeff Baron January 10, 2014 at 02:28 PM
While I wish you would ID yourself, I want to respond because (in general) I think you are making cogent arguments without too much bashing. I can't speak for someone else, but I would tell you that the last election's results were another mandate that the status quo was not acceptable to the majority of voters (non-voters don't count as they chose not to exercise their voice). Termination WITHOUT cause was the chosen path so as to not expose the town to questions, legal costs, etc. often associated with the "for cause" process you describe above. Yes, it too had a cost, but as we have learned in previous cases, it hardly a slam dunk to call the WITH cause option less expensive. So, I see the argument here of a "hasty" decision and lack of process as more of a fulfillment of the reality that the voters spoke and asked for a change, and it started at the top. What else is to come as it relates to change can be judged on its own merits. BTW, the signatories on this letter aren't saying anything original in the "elections have consequences" message. Of course, they do. They always do. They are, in my opinion, sensationalizing an issue in an attempt to rally their base and "take back the power". That's also not a new tactic. The part that bothers me is their implication of trustworthiness and authority as current and former town officials. Like I said at the beginning, there are lots of glass house owners on this list throwing stones.....
responsive leadership January 10, 2014 at 04:29 PM
@Jeff. "the voters spoke and asked for change, and it started at the top." I'm particularly troubled by this sentiment. We don't have a mayor. To the extent that certain candidates (since we cling to the illusion that the lack of party label makes for more civil elections at the local level) represent certain policy perspectives, one can argue that those who chose to vote desired change, irrespective of the margin of difference between the candidates. However, if we except the premise that change starts at the top, it suggests that the Selectmen hire an administrator to do their bidding and that person is expendable if the "parties" change. The town administrator is a public administration professional qualified by experience, education and training to manage a public organization with a $30+M budget and about 150 employees. He/she shouldn't be sacked when the wind blows. As to your point about termination without cause, I never would suggest that termination with just cause is appropriate. There was never an allegation of impropriety that would trigger that action. Like many others, I wonder why the three selectmen, allegedly having formed the same judgment independently that the TA should be removed, weren't willing to follow a process that would have cost substantially less than the late August ambush. The performance review was due in September (that was the pre-text for Tony asking for the contract to be placed in the packet, giving him minimal cover under the OML). The three who vorted for removal could have expressed concerns about Mr. Turkington's performance. They could have required him to demonstrate compliance with their "new direction" for the next 6 months as a condition of renewal of his contract. During those 7 months, taxpayers would have benefited from the TA's work instead of paying another employee a stipend to cover the critical matters and then hiring an interim administrator. If nothing else, a deicision as important as retaining or hiring a TA should take more than 18 minutes. It should have public input. If the current majority believes their approach last August was appropriate, then why have they engaged in debates at virtually every Selectmen's meeting since October on a review of the job description, composition of a search committee, establishing a public process for gathering input on the qualities of the next TA, etc. See the contrast? I never questioned the right of the majority to take the action they do. But I do challenge them to explain on what basis they decided to remove the TA, to describe the material changes in operations, budget or policy that have resulted due to their action, and whether they plan to treat the TA position as a revolving door based on partisan considerations. If so, then Wayland needs to have a considered public debate on a governance model.
responsive leadership January 10, 2014 at 04:32 PM
Given that the former TA had nothing but stellar performance reviews, Doug Leard must have shared that view. He voted to hire Mr. Turkington. He participate in evaluations during his terms as Selectman when the former TA first came to Wayland and during his most recent term. What changed for him? I guess we'll never know since he has left office.

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