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