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.