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Selectmen Spar About Comments to the Press

One Hamilton selectman faced accusations on Monday that he was out of line in comments he made to a local newspaper.

A Hamilton selectman allegedly stepped out of line in comments he made to a local newspaper after the board decided earlier this month to return taxes that were overcollected, according to the board chairman.

Chairman Jennifer Scuteri said during the board’s meeting on Monday night that comments made by freshman selectman Jeff Stinson after the March 1 vote were “condescending” and unfairly criticized Town Manager Michael Lombardo and Selectman Bill Bowler.

In early March, the board had been asked how to handle the overcollection of $275,000 in taxes after an accounting error was made on state paperwork. Town Manager Michael Lombardo told the board it had two options – either return the money in tax bills or put it in a reserve account.

The board , which will happen on the quarterly 2012 tax bills.

Stinson was quoted in the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle on March 10:

 “This is the taxpayers money, plain and simple. I am a little irritated that another option was even suggested. Or better yet, I understand why it was suggested. I am more disappointed that it was entertained."

Stinson said his comments were not a criticism of Lombardo and he would never criticize the board following a vote. And he said he spoke privately afterward with Bowler to work it out.

“This is a personal issue,” Stinson said, something that Scuteri could have taken up with a phone call to him.

Scuteri – during a sometimes testy exchange between her and Stinson that came near the end of a nearly three hour meeting - said a board member should not disparage the board after a vote.

“It sounded like you were standing up for the people and the rest of us weren’t,” she said.

Scuteri said the board, after expanding from three members to five members after last May’s election, met with Franklin Town Administrator Jeff Nutting, who was serving as a consultant, to talk about how to operate as a larger board and under the Town Manger form of government.

At the time, Nutting told the board to direct press inquiries through the board chairman and town manager. Scuteri said Stinson was not following that procedure.

“The board provides vision as a team,” Scuteri said.

Stinson said the policy sends a “very bad message.”

“If I get a phone call I am going to be honest and open,” Stinson said.

William Harris March 24, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Will the person hiding behind "Alexander Hamilton" (that would be Jennifer??) please come out of the closet?
Robert Gates March 24, 2011 at 08:39 PM
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Jay Burnham March 24, 2011 at 09:19 PM
QE...I was unaware that Jeff Stinson was running for state senate. Are you sure you're not confusing him with the chairman? And I disagree with your assessment of "half-baked job". Let me give you an example of what should be considered a "half-baked job"... Last year's liason form the Board of Selectmen to the school committee attended ONE school committe meeting. ONE! That's "half-baked". But this year Jeff is expected to attend ALL SC meetings...and he nearly has. I don't call that attendance record "half-baked" and neither should you. I know you have not been in the audience at BoS meetings in Hamilton, but surely watching them online you have been able to see that the chairman has regularly, arrogantly and condescendantly gone after Selectman Stinson. If he is sighing, it's because he's tired of that kind of treatment...as are so many other residents. Don't even get me started about the conduct of another board member that you seem to be overlooking, even as you criticize Jeff. There's a good reason nearly all the comments in this string have supported him and not the chairman. As I mentioned previously, this is not about the return of the overcharge of taxes.
William Harris March 24, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Jay: Obviously "Alexander Hamilton" just does not get it and prefers to lob a grenade and run for the exit. The point: a return of the overcharge of taxes. This from a town leadership that - after being forced to carry out an audit due to the efforts of the town residents - admits they just can't explain how the School Committee spent all that money. Second point: this disrespect and dispargement of Selectman Stinson is not a new or recent development - it is a continuation of a long pattern of dismissive and abusive treatement. Please allow me to say "Enough is Enough."
Betty Gray March 28, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Betty Gray Jeff Stinson is an intelligent young man and is exactly what we need on the BOS. Because he is young, I think some of the selectment think he does not grasp things. His lack of experience is no detriment as he is always up on issues and seems to do his homework. He did not contact the press - they contacted him. In other words HE DID NOT SEEK THEM OUT. Way to go Jeff.

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