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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 22, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Chairman Scuteri is way out of line. The "team approach" appears to be to sweep everything under the rug. Selectman Stinson was standing up for the taxpaying citizens of Hamilton and I commend his efforts and his comments.
Jay Burnham March 22, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Many of us have noticed a distinct conflict in style, purpose and politics between the Chairman of Hamilton's Board of Selectmen and Selectman Stinson ever since he won election to that board. The chairman has demeaned him publicly on numerous occasions and this has not gone unnoticed by the public. This issue simply appears to be more of the same. With credit to his courteousness, Selectman Stinson has not responded in kind. Many citizens have expressed concern to me over this clear and unfortunate conflict and disconnect. If there is condescention on the Board of Selectman, it's not coming from the Selectman Stinson.
Robert Foringer March 22, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Agree with all 3 of the post above! IT IS WHAT IT IS....Thank you Slectman Stinson. The people are tired of he said, she said. missing money, teamwork,.....JUST GIVE US SOME ACCOUNABILITY!
Carol A Mazzetta March 22, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Selectman Stinson may be youg, but he's proven tthat he's there to look out for us "THE TAX PAYERS". Bravo Jeff , we're behind you 100%. Carol Mazzetta, Hamilton
Carol A Mazzetta March 22, 2011 at 04:00 PM
HEAR HEAR JAY, I COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF!!!
Edwin Howard March 22, 2011 at 04:24 PM
At last nights Hamilton Selectmen’s meeting about the last thing on the agenda was having the Select Board speak as one voice to the press. I approached the Chairman after the meeting because the meeting was cut short and it was obvious that people from the audience were not going to be allowed to comment. I told the Chairman that she and I should have a discussion on the democratic process and how important it is that minority opinions be presented. I repeated this to Mr. Bowler who was standing near by and he seemed to understand because he is often the minority opinion. The free flow of ideas is fundamental to the democratic process even if it takes all night.
William Harris March 22, 2011 at 04:33 PM
What a classic example of Orwellian double-speak. Here the Chairperson wishes to have the Board of Selectmen speak with "one voice" so that the voices of those Selectmen who wish to express another point of view (other than the official whitewash or hogwash might be more appropriate with this bunch) will be silenced. Time for a new Chairperson - Scuteri has to go!
alice maciejowski March 22, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Hamilton voters did not expand the BOS in order perpetuate its chronic, arrogant herd mentality. A team is not a dictatorship.
Anonymous March 22, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Thanks for doing the right thing Jeff. I'm glad the board agreed with you to return the money, and Scuteri, but I'm even more glad that you expressed some outrage that outright theft was even considered an option.
Elaine Appel March 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM
So apparently it is acceptable to publicly call down a fellow selectman personally, yet a board member speaking out on issues of great importance to the taxpayers is not following procedures. Also seems as though the chairman, who's clearly-stated primary focus is to increase tax revenue, is unduly bothered by not being seen as taking the lead in the call to "give the people back their money." Nice to know Mr. Stinson is on hand to make sure we all know how business is done in the chamber.
Kim Bullis March 23, 2011 at 11:18 AM
Selectman Stinson promised the tax payers accountability and transparency and that is what he is giving us, if the rest of the board doesn’t like that to bad. I agree Scuteri needs to be replaced as the chairman of the board. We the people need our selectman to be on our side, the chairman especially! I say we should vote Mr. Stinson in as chairman so we know the people we voted into office have our backs! What do the tax payers of Hamilton think? Kim Bullis
Michelle Bailey March 23, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Hamilton voters got to see their Board of Selectman operate live on TV on Monday night. Wenham voters however did not get to see their Board of Selectman meet live on TV on Tuesday night. Instead we were treated to a rerun of the March 15 meeting. After all the controversy last summer about their possible plan to have working meetings off camera on a regular basis, why would they not allow the meeting last night to be televised live? It was recorded, so hopefully it will air later.
CatherineH. March 23, 2011 at 06:09 PM
To all that have posted or have a concern on this difficult issue I was never one to "blog" prior to this however an event has changed that and it was something that is now, a good time to relate the event to others in Hamilton. I was in Crosby's market in downtown Hamilton back in February of 2011 when I saw Mr. Bowler of the BOS walking into the store. He was speaking to a woman I did not know. however I was able to be a nosey person and did hear about 10 seconds of his talk with her. His words to this woman were, "It isn't easy to fool the entire town for this many years, it takes a talent!" I am not sure of what the rest of this talk revolved around, but I was not happy with the small portion of what I heard. I am unhappy with what I heard and wanted at some point to share it with others.
Janice Pappas March 23, 2011 at 07:34 PM
The election of Jeff Stinson to the BOS is the best thing that ever happened to this town. Kim Bullis, I agree that Jeff should be chairman of the BOS. He has the interests of the taxpayers at heart (ya know, the ones who are paying the bills!) and is trying to honor the commitments he made when he was running for office. I pray that he does not get discouraged by the rancor against him by the other board members.
Kim Bullis March 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Janice I agree! Jeff was a refreshing addition! It’s time that the people we vote into office work for the people and are open and honest. He has shown great promise in the short time he has served. I believe situations like this will only make him stronger and will feed his will to do the right thing.
Carol A Mazzetta March 24, 2011 at 03:50 PM
I agree with all the above, do you think Jeff's youth is an intimidating factor? Or, is it because he's smarter than the rest ot the board? You be the judge!!
William Harris March 24, 2011 at 05:58 PM
What's the problem Chairperson Scuteri - hiding behind the "Alexander Hamilton" name? Come out into the open - sunlight is the best disinfectant!
Jay Burnham March 24, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Too bad "Alexander Hamilton's" comment was stricken from the above string...for being inaccurate and inappropriate, I guess. I was looking forward to reading the rebuttals.
Robert Foringer March 24, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Jay The comment sounded like an Anttorney wrote it...uhm...who could that be
_________________________ March 24, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Alex You are alive! Thank God. I was only firing a warning shot. Why does everybody hate me? Your friend Aaron
Kim Bullis March 24, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Maybe Mr. Stinson was referring to “in general” when he referred to receiving a phone call? At least that is the way I took it. And how “Alexander Hamilton” would you know what he shared with his board members? Unless of course you are on that board maybe? Just sayin…..
_________________________ March 24, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Now Alex. Be kind to Master Stinson. He may be vexed enough to challenge ye to a duel. And we all know you are a poor enough shot. Your friend, Aaron
Jay Burnham March 24, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Okay "Alexander"...I see that your comment has been "re-posted" and just as I thought, the rebuttals are now streaming in. Please note: I read QE's blog that you mentioned and I, like you, was impressed by what he had to say. For instance, in referring to Selectman Stinson, QE states: "His transparency, honesty, and openness are welcome additions to town governance." Pretty complimentary... Despite some critical remarks in part of QE's blog, criticisms that I do not believe are entirely accurate, we do agree on one thing... According to the conclusion of his blog: "Mr. Stinson has been a breath of fresh air to town government, and his presence is very much supported by this blogger. I applaud the fact that he fights for the taxpayer, and I will continue to support him." I fear the grandstanding, dear "Alexander", is coming from you. Now let's talk about anonymity and your use of a pseudonym to hide your identity so that you do not have to own, or take responsibility for what you say...the very reason that the Salem News, and other news media throughout the country, has recently made it a policy that commenters must use their real names. Here's why: http://tinyurl.com/4fpgrmn
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 (Editor) March 24, 2011 at 08:39 PM
A reminder to commenters on this story and other stories on Hamilton-Wenham Patch: Please refer to our user policies, which asks users to provide their real names and not use pseudonyms.
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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