Conflict erupts at Plympton Selectmen meeting over petitions
Plympton – Monday, Dec. 14, Plympton Selectmen’s regularly scheduled meeting at the Town House began with former Selectman John Henry dropping off two petitions regarding meetings being filmed by Area 58 Community Access Media to the Board as they adjourned their executive session. Henry was not on the agenda and this was not expected. The Selectmen also finalized a title for the “employee document” and further tackled various sections. They also announced that the USDA had auctioned off the property at 59 Parsonage Road. The meeting was brief, but dramatic.
Henry presents petition
Selectmen were just closing their executive session when resident and former selectman John Henry handed the Express two petitions he had circulated asking that all Finance Committee meetings between January 1, 2016 and the Annual Town Meeting be filmed by Area 58 CAM. The other asked that the Public Safety Building Committee meetings be filmed, as well.
He also supplied an email dated Dec. 6, stating that many elderly residents in the community could not attend these meetings because they don’t drive at night, that the room where they are held in is too small and uncomfortable, that the busiest meetings for the FinCom happen during flu season and that the FinCom meetings should be moved to a different room.
Selectmen had previously discussed the matter and decided that there was no problem with the current arrangement as the meetings are lightly attended, and FinCom Chairman Susan Ossoff had cited logistical issues in moving from their current space.
When selectmen asked Henry if his petitions were on the meeting agenda for the evening, Henry replied that no, he was just going to hand them to the Board after the meeting had begun.
As the Board broke from executive session, Henry entered the room and before the Board had come back into Open Session presented his petitions to the Board.
The entire exchange happened quickly, as Area 58 was setting up their cameras, so no record of the incident exists. A heated discussion ensued and Selectmen Chairman Mark Russo and Henry exchanged harsh words. The meeting began in open session after Henry left, continuing his tirade with members of the Finance Committee who were standing in the hall outside the selectmen’s meeting room.
Everyone who signed the petition to have the Public Safety Building Committee meetings filmed signed the petition to have the FinCom meetings filmed, but a few more signed the FinCom petition, with 78 unique signatures. Two individuals signed twice and were thus only counted once.
Just examining the FinCom petition, approximately 60% of the petitioners were over the age of 70, according to an analysis by the Express accomplished by crosschecking the names and addresses of the petitioners against birth years provided in the 2015 edition of the annually published “Plympton Street List”. The average age was about 70, and the median age was 72. According to the 2010 US Census, the median age for Plympton is 44.
Of all the petitioners, only four were under the age of 50. Of these four, only one was in his 40’s. The other three were between 30 and 35. The range of ages of the petitioners was from 30 to 90.
The Selectmen agreed to discuss the petition next week.
Sale of 59 Parsonage Road
Several attempts to negotiate Plympton’s obtaining the storied 36-acre property at 59 Parsonage Road for conservation land and other uses, fell through due to the lack of funding on either side for Phase II environmental studies. The USDA, which owned the property through foreclosure, was finally able to bring it to auction on Friday, Dec. 11, when the property was sold to the highest bidder.
There was no floor on the initial bid. The USDA would not confirm the sale price as of press time, although the popular real estate website Zillow.com indicates a pending sale of $170,000 for that address.
The Chairman Russo wasn’t sure if the buyer’s name had been made public, but he did mention that he was led to believe that the property owner intended to continue to use it for agricultural purposes.
The Express has since learned it was a Plympton resident who made the purchase.
Personnel document progresses
The “personnel document” received a new name – the “Town Employee Policy and Procedures Handbook”.
The Board also settled on disciplinary guidelines, chosen from several other towns and Town Counsel, which were voted on and approved for a ten-day posting period for public comment. Following the review period, it will become part of the handbook.
They also voted on a uniform employment application, which as well will be posted for a ten-day period for public comment.
The Selectmen also discussed a “social media policy”, and were examining several possibilities, from one to eight pages long. The longest policy was recommended by Town Counsel. The Board decided they needed more time to look over the document.
Furure meeting dates
Future meeting dates:
- The Board of Selectmen will meet next on Dec. 21 and Jan. 4.
- The Public Safety Building Committee will meet next Dec. 30.