AYER -- An unscheduled motion to reorganize the Board of Selectmen resulted in a flurry of accusations as members voted to remove chairman Pauline Conley from office.
The move calling for Conley's removal occurred during the board's meeting Tuesday when fellow member James Fay charged the chairman with violation of board policies on rules and ethics.
In particular, Fay charged that Conley failed to abide by a decision taken by the board as a whole and then taking action following a vote without returning to the board for further consideration and decision on the action.
"As a result of your unauthorized removal of an executive session document from the BOS office, a formal inquiry has been requested by me to the town counsel and to the Board of Ethics in this matter as to wrongdoing and I believe it would be in the best interest of the Board of Selectmen and the town of Ayer that chairman Conley be removed from the chairman position," read Fay in a statement submitted to the board.
"It's a matter of trust," explained Fay after reading the statement.
According to town administrator Robert Pontbriand, it had been agreed by all the selectmen that the executive session minutes in question could be transferred to another town entity.
Although the contents of the minutes were not disclosed, Conley was accused of removing them more than once from the selectmen's office before all members could sign them and at one point, even slipping them under the door of Pontbriand's office.
Fay said that when asked by him, Conley made no attempt at explaining her actions even after apparently sending Fay an email on the subject, an action she denied doing until Fay held up a copy of the message as proof.
Conley's attempt at explaining her actions was interrupted by fellow board member Jannice Livingston who quickly outlined the chronology of events leading up to the action. When asked about the removal of the minutes from the selectmen's office, Livingston said that Conley had indicated that she did not know what was going on.
"For whatever reason, you decided to play a game and I have no confidence in you," disclaimed Livingston who then moved that Conley be replaced as chairman.
For her part, Conley refuted the timeline of events as described by Livingston and demanded that the board wait until it heard back from the Board of Ethics to find out if her actions were erroneous.
"There's a mountain of things we don't understand about you," said Fay.
Calling for a decision on removal, the motion passed on a three to two vote with Fay, Livingston, and Gary Luca voting in favor and fellow members Conley and Christopher Hillman voting against.
That vote set off another round of recriminations with Fay expressing anger with Hillman's vote, calling him a "back-stabber" and claiming that in off-the-record discussions about Conley's behavior as chairman, Hillman had agreed with Fay.
Hillman called Fay a "fraud" and all order at the meeting broke down.
Finally, Conley was able to nominate Luca as the new chairman with the board voting in favor of the appointment.
But a second vote appointing Hillman as vice-chairman drew a strong protest from a still angry Fay.
"You're kidding!" exclaimed Fay of the choice. Then to both Hillman and Conley: "You absolutely disgust me."
Finally, before storming out of the meeting, Fay climaxed a loud exchange with Hillman by labeling him a "back-stabbing SOB!"
"I'm inclined to leave the meeting too," said Conley after Fay had departed. "But if I left there would be no quorum."
The board had been scheduled to entertain proposals from two companies seeking its support for their plans to establish a medical marijuana facility in town. Seemingly embarrassed representatives were sitting in the audience during the reorganization debate.
The matter finally blew over when Fay returned to the meeting and new chairman Luca asked the first of the medical marijuana applicants to come forward and make their case.