To the Editor:
I would like to offer some insight and opinion based on my observations of the actions taken by the Damariscotta board of selectmen last Wednesday evening. I am basing these opinions on my past experience as a selectman and as a citizen who pays a lot of attention to local government.
The meeting started out by needing to meet with the snow plowing contractor over the requirements of bonding which was asking the town to put up $30,000 to hold a bond. It was obvious from the beginning, there was a serious lack of communication between the contractor and the board and between the town manager and the board. This is when chairman Josh Pinkham tried to negotiate with the contractor on a way to secure the $30,000. It was at that point things got a little out of hand.
It seems as though there was already an unofficial agreement out there that the town and contractor were going to split the cost of the $30,000, but it still needed approval of the board. This is when the contractor, among other things, accused the chair of having personal feelings against him. I don’t believe the chair was harboring personal feelings against him, I believe the chair was doing what he was elected to do and that is represent the best interests of the town.
So with all the plowing issues resolved, Selectman Stelzer became very insistent that, with the plowing contractor still present, that the board take an item from the agenda out of order. That item was executive session with the town manager to discuss communication, the board agreed and the manager instantly declined the meeting be done in private, which allowed the abnormally crowded audience to stay in the room. So Josh started by expressing concerns over actions of the manager and the lack of communication back to the board. Then the crowd starting jumping to support the manager and a majority of the board chose to ignore the communication problems and the discussion quickly turned to a situation when Josh questioned a contractor who had the Backmeadow Rd. closed off to replace a culvert. He was criticized for not following the proper communication channels. Executive session ended and the board conducted more business.
Nearing the end of the meeting, Selectman Stelzer criticized Josh’s ability to be chair and a need to bring integrity back to the board, which prompted him to make a motion to remove Josh from the chair. The motion was quickly seconded by Selectman Wilbur citing concerns over his mannerism, tone of voice, and comments he had made. Upon the motion being seconded, it was clear that the only support Josh was going to get was from Selectperson Vicki Pinkham. It was at this point I addressed the board and reminded them that the chair is only a ceremonial position with no extra power or authority and it would be pointless to remove him. Then drawing from my past experience and knowledge of town charter and law, I suggested that they were not following the proper procedure to remove him.
Selectman Stelzer advised me if “I didn’t like it I should hire a lawyer.” I don’t need to hire a lawyer. I know the chair can be removed for cause after notice and hearing. I also know any official has the right to a closed door meeting so as not to damage one’s personal or professional reputation. The chairman was clearly the victim in a premeditated attack on his personal and professional reputation. This is shameful and this didn’t help the board’s reputation at all. I hope the board will recognize its communication problems and work hard to the people who elected them to office. The selectmen work for us, the townspeople. They are responsible for the actions of the town.
To the Editor: