On June 23, the Ayer Board of Selectmen passed over a unanimous Finance Committee request that they appoint former town official Pauline Conley to serve on the Finance Committee. Instead, the selectmen majority behaved as though she was not present (she was) and left two seats unfilled. It’s not whether she was chosen, but how it was done.
More than a week after the snub, The Public Spirit was finally provided a copy of a public document sent to the selectmen on the eve of that meeting that was likely influential over the process.
The afternoon before the selectmen’s vote, Ayer School Committee Chairman Dan Gleason wrote an e-mail to the Board of Selectmen, lobbying them against appointing Conley to the Finance Committee. The communication is significant because the School Committee, along with the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, make up the three prongs of the Tri-Board Committee. The three panels convene in a cooperative effort annually to collaborate on budget issues.
Because the e-mail was electronically received at the selectmen’s office and addressed to “Chairman Sullivan and the Ayer Board of Selectmen,” the communication is a public record, correctly concluded Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski.
The selectmen’s unethical behavior raises two issues: First, since four of the five selectmen had clearly decided before the public meeting that they would not consider Conley for the post, not only was that act illegal, but voters don’t know why they voted as they did; second, based on what was introduced into evidence at the board’s meeting, voters would have no idea that this piece of inflammatory evidence against Conley existed. None of this complies with the transparency required of government.
When Gleason learned of the public status of his e-mail, he was not in favor of it being published. He said that was not his intent. But we submit that when a public official has an opinion about a public issue, he should not speak it in the shadows so that only a select few can hear. All the town’s voters, most of all Pauline Conley, should hear the evidence.
We all have a constitutional right to answer charges against us. We can’t do that when accusations are whispered behind our backs. (Dan Gleason’s e-mail begins on this page and is published in its entirety.)