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Return to civility

‘Tis the season to show goodwill toward men. It would be nice if the five members of Ayer’s Board of Selectmen could adopt the message as a permanent policy.

If infighting were a sport, the Fractious Five — Jim Fay, Pauline Conley, Frank Maxant, Chris Hillman and Gary Luca — would be All-Stars of ill contempt.

It’s a wonder that Ayer residents put up with this public misbehavior from elected officials who shout at one other during board meetings, trade nasty emails and harbor grudges if a vote doesn’t go their way.

Several years ago when Ayer voters approved a measure to expand the board to five members, they were looking for additional people who would cooperate and collaborate for the good of the town. It didn’t mean everyone had to agree on everything all the time. But be civil. Show respect.

If ever there were a time to rethink the board’s makeup — and size — it’s now. Instead of five well-intentioned thinkers working to improve things, the town is stuck with a handful of uncivil fingerpointers.

Lately, Hillman has blamed everyone but himself for disturbing comments he admittedly made Nov. 2 in the office of Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand. At least two witnesses heard Hillman say he wanted to “murder” someone and that “he had a list.”

In a later conversation with Conley — the alleged target of Hillman’s wrath — Pontbriand described Hillman as “agitated.”

The town administrator also contacted Ayer’s police chief about Hillman’s comments.

Since the incident, Hillman has backtracked more than Daniel Boone hunting a wily bear in the wilderness. He said his comments were harmless figures of speech that he uses all the time. Then he accused a Nashoba Publishing reporter of conspiring with Conley to write the story about the incident.

It’s hogwash, and Hillman knows it.

All five selectmen should know better than to utter such offensive — and threatening — comments under any pretext. Even if Hillman said them in jest, they were inappropriate.

In the present-day climate of zero tolerance, a fifth-grader who put such words as “murder” and suggested a “list” of targets to a piece of paper would be suspended and likely charged with a crime.

Ayer selectmen have a challenge: Clean up this rude and disrespectful behavior and do the job they were elected to do.

It’s also the season for making New Year’s resolutions. Civility should be on the top of the selectmen’s list.