Art Campbell

Art started The Groton Line late in 2009 as a synthesis of two careers in newspaper journalism and technical communications -- writing about networks, computers, and software. He's only lived in Groton 20+ years, so he qualifies as "one of the new guys" with a fresh perspective.

Mar 262015
 

Football hero visits the prom and hangs out with (L-R) Margot Bouvier, Kelly Chouinard Mayer, and Kelsey McCormick at the 2014 Mom Prom

Football hero visits the prom and hangs out with (L-R) Margot Bouvier, Kelly Chouinard Mayer, and Kelsey McCormick at the 2014 Mom Prom

Kelsey McCormick is excited. So is Marlena Gilbert. And so is Margot Bouvier. They have their dresses picked out and they’re all counting down the days to their prom, the Fifth Annual Mom Prom Nashua.

McCormick, one of the organizers of the effort several years ago, reported in an email that “Last year we had 250 woman and we raised over $18,000 for the fight against breast cancer. What’s better than a girl’s night out for a great cause? Grab a group of friends and come support this great cause and have a blast! I’m a Groton resident and would love to have a large Groton representation at our event!”

This year’s event is April 11 from 7 — 11:30 p.m. at the Alpine Grove in Hollis, New Hampshire. The event starts with dinner, and the $55 ticket includes a drink ticket, DJed dancing, a professional MC, a photo booth, raffles, and more. Group tables are available, McCormick said.

The event is to increase awareness and provide donations to the St. Joseph Breast Cancer Center. For more information or for tickets, visit http://www.mompromnashua.org/mom-prom-nashua-2015.html.


Mar 242015
 

The view of Groton Town Center blocked off from a school bus detouring around police barricades on March 23tdJessica Madigan

The view of Groton Town Center blocked off from a school bus detouring around police barricades on March 23td


“We’re working with the FBI and state police to see if we can come to some sort of resolution or conclusion,” on the phone calls that shut down Groton Center for almost two hours yesterday afternoon, Groton Police Chief Donald Palma said. “We’re still playing with the tape (of the 911 calls). We’ve asked them to assist with some high tech forensics,” he said.

Police shut down Route 119, Main Street, on Monday March 23rd after receiving two phone calls at 1:46 p.m. The first reportedly talked about a stabbing and a potential hostage situation; the second reported a pipe bomb in a local building. Both calls referenced Groton’s Main Street near the Main Street Cafe; Prescott School building; and the Boutwell House, the Groton Historical Society’s headquarters.

Police from half a dozen agencies responded, evacuated some businesses, thoroughly searched the area, and after turning up nothing to support the phone calls, Palma declared them a hoax.

Groton-Dunstable regional schools were on a heightened state of awareness but were not “locked down” Palma said, because “They were pretty specific in the call. We had no reason to think that anything else in town was involved.”

Both the police and school district were flooded with calls from concerned parents, but the end effect of the incident was that some school buses were delayed.

Palma said his agency and other police departments, as well as the state police and FBI were also working “on lessons learned,” but the take-away was that the response was handled well.

“I’ve taken a lot of flack from people who think they should have been notified, needed to be notified, that we should have notified them,” Palma said. “But bottom line is I had three police officers plus Jimmy (Lieutenant James Cullen) and I on duty, so that’s only five. Plus the dispatchers. There’s only so much you can do in an evolving situation. We do the best we can. We contained the immediate area. I have to go on the information I received, and we had information that someone had done harm to someone else.”


Mar 232015
 

Police barricaded Route 119, Main Street, for about two hours this afternoon while they searched the area after they received threatening callsArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Police barricaded Route 119, Main Street, for about two hours this afternoon while they searched the area after they received threatening calls

Groton center was shut down for about two hours this afternoon, when Groton Police received a terse phone call at 1:46 p.m. reporting a possible stabbing. At least one other phone call followed, in which the caller alleged that an individual with a pipe bomb might be in the town center.

Police from Groton, four neighboring communities and the Massachusetts State Police cordoned off Groton CenterArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Police from Groton, four neighboring communities and the Massachusetts State Police cordoned off Groton Center

Officers quickly closed state Route 119, main street and other streets leading into the town center to establish a secure perimeter. Fire equipment, ambulances, and additional police from area towns responded to the area. Heavy construction equipment formed part of a barricade across the road. The Groton Historical Society and its outbuildings at 172 Main Street were searched. Across the street, The Main Street Cafe, the offices of
  • The Groton Herald
  • , and Exit Assurance Realty at 161 Main were evacuated and searched.

    Groton Police Chief Donald Palma issued a news release at 4 p.m. that related:

    “A thorough search was conducted by the Groton Police Department and the area was determined to be safe. Units from the Ayer Police Department, Dunstable Police Department, Pepperell Police Department, Littleton Police Department as well as State Troopers from the Leominster barracks and the Bomb Squad responded.

    “During the incident the Police Command was in constant communications with the Groton Fire Department and Groton-Dunstable Regional School District and at no time were the schools in danger, however precautions were put in place.

    “This incident is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

    (We will update this story as new information becomes available. — Ed.)


    Mar 222015
     


    Stuart Schulman was up front about what Board of Selectmen’s meetings are not: “We are not The Jerry Springer Show.” But the last prime time meeting of the board, on Monday March 16th, had its TV-like moments.

    But after a confusing open-to-the-public executive session apparently intended to discuss Town Manager Mark Haddad’s feeling of being “unsafe” enough to request a police officer at the previous week’s meeting, residents in the Town Hall lobby were making comparisons to the classic Abbot and Costello “Who’s On First” comedy routine.

    Chair Josh Degen kicked off the meeting with an announcement that two issues would be handled in executive session at the end of the meeting, The first was a complaint, he said, by a resident. The second was “A complaint against me by I don’t know who,” and that he wanted the complaint aired in open session, rather than the follow the usual closed-door private session in which most personnel matters are handled.

    Both issues surfaced during the previous week’s meeting, when an email from Town Manager Mark Haddad was read out loud. Haddad wrote: “Please consider this email as a request for a formal investigation as to why I am hearing about potential Board action against me as an employee of the Town from residents of the Town” and complained that Degen would not “enlighten” him. Degen said he couldn’t “enlighten” Haddad because he didn’t have any idea what Haddad was talking about at the time. (See the full story on that meeting.)

    After the regular business meeting on the 16th, town counsel Brian Maser said a verbal complaint about safety in the workplace had been made. Vice Chair Anna Eliot had discussed the procedure with him, and earlier in the week, Degen was notified that he should prepare to appear before them for a personnel-related executive session.

    Selectmen, though elected officials, can be legally viewed as town employees. Because the complaint was seen as a complaint about an “employee,” Degen, the executive session rule would apply.

    Degen recused himself from the Board and turned the meeting over to Vice Chair Anna Eliot. He said, “Basically the complaint that is the purpose of this executive session has to do with the [reason] I am here because you have a complaint from — would you name the complainant in public please to me or against me and what the allegation is against me?”

    Eliot replied that it was a “request from Mr. Haddad.”

    But Haddad contradicted her and said, “I did not file a complaint about safety to ask for this meeting tonight. I don’t know where this came from. I didn’t make this request.”

    Degen asked, “Then who did and why am I here?”

    Eliot responded that Selectman Jack Petropoulos, “… sent me an email raising the concerns and that is what prompted me to call town counsel.”

    Petropoulos said after the meeting that he thought Haddad’s charges the previous week, although he didn’t call out Degen by name, were serious enough that they should be heard and investigated. He added that it wasn’t just that the complainant was Haddad and the alleged person was Degen — he said that in any organization, any allegation of an unsafe workplace should be dealt with immediately to resolve the situation and to avoid any legal problems that could crop up by not addressing the charge aggressively.

    In the meeting, Haddad said again, “To set the record straight, it did not come from me.”

    The video of the March 9 meeting shows that Mr. Haddad expressed concern about his personal safety and that he said he asked the police department to provide an officer at the meeting. In the meeting, when Haddad was asked why there was a police officer present at the meeting, he responded it was for his personal safety, without providing any specifics. The officer in attendance earned less than $200, billed at time and a half for overtime, Haddad said. There was not a police officer at the meeting on the 16th.

    On the 16th, Petropoulos said he brought the matter forward to the board because “… an employee who is concerned about his safety, eventually I went to the Vice-chair because we need to take it seriously… I handed it off to Anna and have heard nothing about it since.”

    Haddad replied that, “I never filed a complaint about that issue.”

    Petropoulos came back at Haddad’s assertion, agreeing that a formal written complaint had not been filed nor an individual specified, but that Haddad had requested an investigation naming Degen and Rob Flynn, and had made a statement in the previous meeting that he was concerned about his personal safety. He again stressed that any employee fears about personal safety had to be taken seriously by the town and the board.

    Schulman jumped in at that point, delivered his Jerry Springer line, and said that the level of finger pointing, accusations and counter-accusations had become “silly.” He asked everyone to consider dropping the complaint or investigation being discussed.

    “While I am with you in spirit, I am the one sitting here called to task because it’s been alleged that I may have created an unsafe work environment and while the town manager has not formally filed anything or a complaint. I want to know why I am sitting here,” Degen said.

    “Have I ever made a threat or had anything to do with harming or intimidating your personal safety?” he asked Haddad.

    Instead of answering, Haddad said, “I have no comment. I made a statement at the meeting last week and for some reason it took a life of its own… I didn’t want this discussion with Mr. Degen tonight. This is all news to me. I was out of work last week and had no idea that this was on the agenda.”

    Eliot tried to get the meeting back on track, saying that the intent of the session was to schedule a future session at which Degen’s attorney could be present. She noted that Degen had told her over the weekend that he wanted his attorney present.

    Haddad asked her if that was necessary, and Degen asked Haddad, “What did I do wrong?”

    Haddad replied that, “If there’s not a complaint raised by me, I withdraw that particular complaint. This issue goes away. Stuart, that’s what you wanted; I just did it. On that particular issue,” he said, waving his finger. He did not specify which particular issue or complaint he was referring to.

    Degen asked the board to go on record and state that there was no formal complaint and no finding against him. “I in no way did anything to warrant this.”

    Petropoulos agreed, saying that if the issue was really a nonissue, Degen deserved to be exonerated.

    Selectman Schulman stated, “I am willing to exonerate Selectman Degen from this… I am happy to do so.”

    Eliot and Selectman Peter Cunningham didn’t say anything.

    Haddad backed away even further from the board’s and Degens assumption that his problem was with Degen, and said, “I never (identified) Mr. Degen by name last week. Don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t know who made the assumption that it was Mr. Degen.”

    Although Schulman and Petropoulos both said Degen should be exonerated, the board made no formal motions and took no votes on anything.

    The board ended that portion of its meeting and went into closed executive session to hear the other complaint Haddad referred to in his email from the previous week. That session related to Rob Flynn’s successful effort to put a nonbinding referendum on the Spring Town Meeting warrant, asking the selectmen not to renew Haddad’s employment contract.


    Mar 202015
     

    Jane Bouvier collecting signatures for a recall of Groton's selectmenArt Campbell | The Groton Line

    Jane Bouvier collecting signatures for a recall of Groton’s selectmen

    If you’re planning on heading to the Transfer Station Saturday morning, keep an eye out for Garry Roy, the first person to come to Jane Bouvier’s aid and help her collect signatures on affidavits for recall of Groton’s selectmen. Roy will have five affidavits with him from about 10 a.m. until noon, one for each selectman: Peter Cunningham, Josh Degen, Anna Eliot, Jack Petropoulos, and Stuart Schulman. Anyone can sign one or more, or all, he said.

    Bouvier began her one-woman drive Monday in The Clover Farm Market, West Groton’s small general store and larger yarn shop run by Janet Shae, a friendly and fiesty West Groton fixture. In a prominent corner of the front room, at a round table by the sandwich cooler and the coffee, Bouvier sat at a small round table, her walker parked at her side, sipping coffee and chatting with people as they wandered into the store to shop and sign affidavits.

    Roy’s reasons for collecting affidavit signatures echoes Bouvier’s.

    “I just think we need to shake them up a bit,” Roy said. “This has just gotten way out of hand. I agree with Jane. I met with her. I think it’s time we shook ‘em up a little bit, and by God, I’m perfectly willing to do it because I’d like to see at least one of them subjected to recall. And I don’t care which one it is. I don’t have a bone to pick with anyone of them — I think they’re all behaving like idiots. Maybe this will get their attention. Maybe.”

    Wednesday at noon, the affidavit to recall Eliot had 17 signatures, Degen’s 15, Cunningham’s 12, Schulman’s 10, and Petropoulos’s 8. Although Petropoulos’s petition is attracting a handful of autographs, he cannot be recalled this spring because he is up for re-election on May and an office holder cannot be recalled within six months of an election, Town Clerk Michael Bouchard said.

    Bouvier, a cable TV talk show host, said she got tired of waiting for someone else to send a message to the selectmen that enough was enough, and the way they had been behaving in meetings was way too much. Last week, she asked Town Clerk Michael Bouchard for affidavits to begin the town’s difficult recall procedure. The procedure has two steps. For any elected officeholder, an affidavit requesting a recall must be signed by two percent of the town’s registered voters — 153 people. Once the affidavit is filed, a recall petition is issued, and it needs ten times the number of signatures — 1530 — to force an election in which anyone may become a candidate for the office, including the incumbent.

    Bouvier invited anyone who either wants to circulate affidavits or to sign one to contact her at 617 803 9771 or email her at gloriousja@gmail.com to make arrangements to pick up or to sign affidavits.


    Mar 182015
     

    Ice and running water sent a car off the road and into the creek on Broadmeadow RoadArt Campbell | The Groton Line

    Ice under running water sent a car off the road and into the creek on Broadmeadow Road Wednesday morning


    A week of balmy temperatures started to shrink the area’s record snowpiles last week, swelling streams and rivers with meltwater capped off with a day of rain this week. Then, Tuesday, a cold front blew into town from the north, riding 40+ mile an hour winds and sending temperatures back below freezing.

    The wind toppled trees and power lines on Gay Road and Route 119 near Nod Road, and brought smaller road blockages in other areas, Department of Public Works Director Tom Delaney said. The Groton Electric Light Department reported no major outages, and a spokeswoman said many downed cables turned out to be phone and cable TV lines. It also blew down “Road Closed” warning signs that marked flooded Broadmeadow Road as off-limits. Delaney said that Broadmeadow Road was the only town road closed because of high water.

    A huge pine was blown down by high winds March 17, blocking route 119 at Nod RoadMike Siciliano

    A huge pine was blown down by high winds March 17, blocking route 119 at Nod Road


    Mar 182015
     

    The pending multimillion dollar lawsuit against the town by four former call firefighters that was first bumped from state to federal court because of potential US Civil Rights law violations has taken a new turn. At the request of the town’s insurance company, the complaint will now be mediated by a federal magistrate rather than continue its route into a courtroom.

    Click to read the back story on the terminations

    Former Groton Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and former call firefighters James Horan, Ben Miele, and Stephen Tervo filed suit in state court after they were terminated in the spring of 2014, alleging that town officials violated the state Strong Chief Law, state and Federal civil rights laws, wrongfully terminated them from their positions, interfered with contractual relationships (related to the firefighter’s job roles), and inflicted emotional distress upon and defamed the four firefighters. The seven count lawsuit named Groton Town Manager Mark Haddad, all five members of the Board of Selectmen, former Fire Chief Joe Bosselait, Fire Captain Susan Daly, and Fire Lieutenant Tony Hawgood (Daly and Hawgood are married) as defendants. The suit has moved to federal court at the request of attorneys for the town’s insurance company, which has taken the lead role in court.

    Jefferson, Miele, and Tervo were not reappointed to their positions as town employees in June, 2014. Until that time, firefighters had never been subject to the annual appointment by the town manager and ratification by the Board of Selectmen that other town employees are. When Haddad and Bosselait presented the list of fire department employees to the Board of Selectmen for the first time, the three veteran firefighters’ names were not included; they were terminated from their positions by not being on the list.

    Haddad conducted an “investigation” in the weeks before the non-reappointment” during which he determined that he had been lied to and that at least one of the firefighters “had an awful attitude,” apparently related to being investigated by the town manager.

    The firefighters pointed out when they were terminated that, because Groton uses the state “Strong Chief Law,” that they should have had a termination hearing for cause. Horan resigned rather than be terminated, alleging ongoing harassment by fire department officers and some fellow firefighter, and by town officials because of his attempt to organize a branch of the Teamster’s Union to represent call firefighters. All four signed Teamster’s union cards.

    Months after the “non-reappointment,” in October, 2014, the town made an apparent attempt to recover from Haddad’s “non-reappointment” tactics. The Town of Groton rehired Jefferson, Miele, and Tervo, immediately placed them on administrative leave, and summoned them to a “Strong Chief Law” employee termination hearing. Haddad was the town’s only witness at the hearing which was conducted by an outside hearing officer, not Fire Chief Steele McCurdy.

    In December, hearing officer and attorney John Clifford wrote in his “Recommendation to the Appointing Authority:”

    Even if all of the hearsay evidence were admitted into the record, over the objection of counsel for the employees, I do not find that the record supports the removal or termination of these employees. There are conflicting versions of the events in question, and the evidence does not show that one version is substantially more likely or credible than the other. It is my recommendation that Clarence Jefferson, Stephen Tervo, and Benjamin Miele not be terminated as a result of these charges, and that they be reinstated to active duty.

    Although all three are technically town employees, they are also all on administrative leave and have not worked for the fire department since last June.


    The move to mediation was announced in a news release by Rob Bowen, attorney for former Groton Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and former call firefighters James Horan, Ben Miele, and Stephen Tervo. He said that mediation could resolve the dispute more quickly than a court proceeding. He also said that the prolonged stay in employment limbo was taking an emotional toll on his clients — they were apparently disinvited to a recent Firefighter’s Association function, even though the Firefighter’s Associations are not part of the fire department.

    Bowen said that the mediation had been suggested by the attorney for the town’s insurance company, but he expected town counsel to participate as well.

    No date has been set for the mediation session.

    Read attorney Rob Bowen's news release

    The four firefighters separated from employment with the Town last year have agreed to attempt to mediate their dispute with town. The events surrounding their separation from the Town have been traumatic for them and their families, and the litigation process could take months and years before their rights are ultimately vindicated. Their emotions are no less raw than they were when the separation occurred, but if the Town is willing now to do the right thing, they need to put this behind them.

    After the four former firefighters sued the town for violating their constitutional rights, the town granted three of them a hearing. An independent hearing officer concluded that the town had not established just cause to terminate the firefighters, and recommended their reinstatement. They remain on administrative leave. Although they were not surprised when the independent hearing vindicated their position, they were and are quite concerned about returning to the department.

    Unfortunately, the ill-will engendered by their unconstitutional firing could not be undone by the findings of the hearing officer four months later. In a department where trust is paramount as these brave men put their lives on the line, they have grave reservations about returning in the present environment. Their worst fears were recently confirmed when one of the four was the target of an unspecified threat, in which his friends were also urged to cut ties with him. This incident is currently under investigation. If this were any employment, with any employer, it would be uncomfortable to return. Given nature of the fire department and the relationships necessary to its safe operation, returning would be a disservice to the town.

    The feeling is apparently mutual. One of the associations of firefighters held an event for all present and past firefighters earlier this month. In what has become a sad state of affairs, the Town reached out to the plaintiffs to make sure they had no plans to attend. This is their town too. After working hard for the citizens of Groton, to be not invited, or uninvited, to this firefighting event has only further exacerbated the hard feelings. They need to move on.

    We would expect not to make any public comment until the mediation can occur. The firefighters appreciate the continued support they are receiving during this difficult time.

    No one from town government would or could comment on the mediation or the town’s role in it, or even confirm that the town was aware of the shift in strategy by the insurance company.

    Chair of the Board of Selectmen Josh Degen said: “I can’t comment on that. You need to talk to the Vice Chair (Anna Eliot) about that. She’s been designated to deal with that.” He said that the designation had occurred in a closed BoS executive session. Eliot also said she was not able to comment until she talked with town counsel, Brian Maser at the Kopelman and Paige law firm. McCurdy was in an all-day training session and could not be reached.

    On Thursday, March 19, Maser replied to questions about the mediation in writing: “I can confirm that the parties are actively attempting to schedule mediation as a possible way to resolve this dispute. Proceeding to mediation, which is nonbinding, and completely confidential, does not serve to indicate the relative strengths or weaknesses of either party’s case and is generally employed as a form of alternative dispute resolution that is less time consuming and less costly than proceeding through the steps of formal litigation. Mediation was initially proposed by counsel assigned by the Town’s insurance company. While the four firefighters initially rejected the concept of mediation, they, through Attorney Bowen, subsequently approached the Town and suggested that the parties meet in that forum after Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Tervo, and Mr. Miele were advised by Chief McCurdy that he would be in touch with them about their being returned to active duty following Mr. Clifford’s report.”

    “Chief McCurdy contacted Jefferson, Tervo, and Miele and left voice mails with them on 12/31. I cannot say whether any or all of them called him back. Attorney Bowen brought back up the concept of mediation a few days after the Chief contacted the firefighters. The parties have agreed to maintain the status quo (Jefferson, Tervo, and Miele are on leave) pending the outcome of mediation,” Maser wrote.


    Mar 172015
     

    Hiker's HomeWill Premru

    Hiker’s Home

    Will Premru, a local outdoor photographer and sophomore at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, has been awarded a Silver Medal for his photograph “Hiker’s Home” in the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of 2015.

    The photograph, taken in Iceland, won a regional gold key, and was displayed with other regional winners at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Boston University. Only three hundred art works from thousands entered all over the country receive national recognition.

    Will Premru hiking in the White MountainsGreg Premru

    Will Premru hiking in the White Mountains

    Jon O’Conner, Premru’s G-DRHS photography teacher, said: “Will is one of the nicest kids at this school.  Extremely humble, mature and very independently driven. His dad is a professional photographer and in truth Will’s technical knowledge of cameras outpaces mine. He’d be a great photographer with or without me! Will submitted five photos this year that we thought might get some notice. He also got an honorable mention for an Analog Photograph. The Hiker’s Home piece came from a trip to Iceland. The colors in this photo are pretty amazing: I think the simple repetition of the tents is especially vivid and reveals the type of lucid scene that makes travel and expedition so indescribable.”

    Premru also recently was awarded an internship position at the Costa Rica Leadership Summit, to which Groton-Dunstable sent a delegation.

    According to Carol Case, a veteran teacher and lead chaperon:

    After a stringent portfolio review and application process, G-DRHS’s own Will Premru was awarded a prestigious internship in photography by our school travel partner, Education First Educatational Tours.

    Will’s considerable skills will be put to use when he attends the Costa Rica Leadership Summit from March 15-24. The Summit topic is environmental sustainability and the keynote speaker is world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. He will shadow a professional photographer and will have special access to capture key moments of the Conference on stage and behind the scenes. His work may also be considered for inclusion in EF marketing materials.

    Other highlights of the internship include a one-on-one mentorship with a graphic designer from EF’s creative team, a pre-Summit webinar with the official EF Summit photographer, and the chance for Will to build his personal portfolio. Congratulations, Will!


    Mar 142015
     

    Jane Bouvier

    Jane Bouvier


    On Friday the 13th, Jane Bouvier decided she had had enough. She pulled paperwork, affidavits, to recall all five Groton Selectmen from Town Clerk Michael Bouchard. She isn’t working for or against any individual, she emphasized — she wants to offer residents a choice and the only way to do that is to provide an opportunity to send a signal to each selectman.

    “I just want them to pull their act together. This is a wake up call. Everyone is throwing stuff in each other’s faces, and it’s become a tit-for-tat kind of thing. I’m doing this for the town, not for personal reasons. I’m going to do this just to make the point, because I think the whole town is being hurt by this,” she said.

    The Board of Selectmen has been in turmoil for several months, in the wake of two Open Meeting Law violations, Public Information Requests filed by Town Manager Mark Haddad for Selectman Jack Petropoulos’s emails, another PIR filed by Selectman Peter Cunningham for a full year’s worth of Petropoulos’s emails, accusations of misconduct back and forth between Vice Chair Anna Eliot and Chair Josh Degen, a call by Degen that Eliot resign, a small herd of harassment charges by town employees against managers, a multi-million dollar federal law suit by four call firefighters, internal investigations, dueling Letters to the Editor by Selectman Stuart Schulman and Petropoulos, Degen’s and Petropoulos’s efforts to shield constituents who contacted him with complaints and concerns with an expectation of privacy, and other problems.

    Bouvier intends to offer residents the opportunity to recall Chair Josh Degen, Vice Chair Anna Eliot, Clerk Stuart Schulman, and Peter Cunningham or Jack Petropoulos. Or all of them. Or any combination. If 153 registered voters sign any single affidavit, a petition can be circulated to collect 1530 signatures of registered voters. If that goal is reached, a recall election would be held.

    The affidavits are the first step in an escalating dance (see the sidebar: “How Recalls Work”) that could lead to a town election in which voters could choose to remove each current selectman from office and to select a replacement. Theoretically, the face of local politics could change quickly and dramatically. The host of a local cable access talk show, Around Town, Bouvier is more used to interviewing local politicians and activists than being part of the action.

    Bouvier isn’t sure how far or how hard she’ll push. She may just collect the signatures on the affidavits and tell the selectmen that town residents have had enough. Or she could take the next step after collecting affidavits and pull and fill out recall petitions. Or, if too few residents are interested … just let the effort die.

    “It will be interesting to see if I can get 150 signatures on five affidavits. Then I would say to them, ‘Look at this. This is just 153 people. But people know better.’ It’s ruining the town. I would drop it if I thought they were doing the right thing. If they start treating each other like normal decent people, start talking to each other … This is the first step — let’s see how it goes” she said.

    Bouvier plans to begin collecting signatures on Monday, March 16, at the Clover Farm General Store in West Groton, from 12:30-2 p.m. Several other area business owners turned down the opportunity to host signing sessions because they didn’t want to be perceived as “political” by the community or any selectmen.

    “I’m going to be there for a couple hours, and if anyone is interested in signing these, that’s where I’ll be,” she said. Other signing sessions will follow, but they haven’t been firmed up yet, she said. People may call her (617 803 9771) or email her (gloriusja@gmail.com) to make arrangements to sign as few or as many affidavits as they wish, she said.

    An article resulting from a citizen’s petitition to put a non-binding referendum on the Spring Town Meeting warrant directing selectmen not to renew Town Manager Mark Haddad’s contract is not related to this effort.

    How Recalls Work

    Recalls of elected officials are fairly rare. Only a handful are recorded in Massachusetts each year, but have a long historical pedigree, apparently stretching back to a mention in the Massachusetts Charter of 1691.

    Locally, town officials couldn’t recall any Groton recalls, but Chelmsford did a recall election in 2011, when a resident unsuccessfully attempted to recall four selectmen.

    A recall election requires two prerequisite steps:

    1. Affidavit. The affidavit requires two percent of the registered voters, 153 people in Bouvier’s case, to affirm that they want recall petitions to be issued. After the signatures on the affidavit are certified as valid by the Town Clerk’s office, recall petitions are issued.
    2. Petition. The petition requires ten times the number of signatures, of 20% of the town’s registered voters, about 1530, to force a recall election. The signatures must be collected within 30 days.

    After the signatures on the petitions are certified, an election date is set. Candidates for each office may circulate nominating petitions to put their names on the ballot of the recall election.

    The ballot facing voters would have two areas, Bouchard said. One would be a series of “Yes or No” questions asking simply if an officeholder should be recalled. The second would be the standard list of candidates running for each office that would be vacated if the recall question passes.

    The recall ballot would be similar to the ballot that voters see in regular town, state, and national elections. Voters would choose one person from the list, but their votes would count only if the first question, whether the current officeholder should be recalled, passes.


    Mar 112015
     

    Groton’s Monday night Board of Selectmen drama series continued March 9, when Town Manager Mark Haddad asked the Board of Selectmen to investigate its chair, Josh Degen, for taking some unspecified actions possibly related to Article 4 on the Spring Town Meeting warrant, a nonbinding resolution asking the Board of Selectmen not to renew his contract.

    Later in the meeting, it was revealed that Haddad had requested a special police detail for the selectmen’s meeting. Questioned by Degen and a resident about the unusual request, Haddad said the officer sat through the meeting to ensure “My safety,” and was paid time and a half for a four hour minimum by the town — less than $200.

    The story began on Saturday, March 7, when Haddad queried Degen about text messages Haddad received from an unnamed third party, who, sources said, forwarded one or more text messages she received from someone else. The text messages apparently contained references to an unspecified someone being fired or otherwise having trouble with the town as a result of the ongoing “videogate” procurement controversy.

    Degen said that he didn’t know anything at all about the messages at the time, and told Haddad that.

    Haddad fired off an email to Groton’s other four selectmen on Sunday, demanding an investigation of Degen and his relationship to Groton resident Rob Flynn, who Haddad said was the originator of the texts. Degen read the email at the beginning of the Monday evening, made printed copies available at the meeting, and provided an electronic copy of the email after a request from The Groton Line:


    On Mar 8, 2015 11:58 AM, “Mark Haddad” wrote:
    Good Morning Ms. Eliot, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Schulman and Mr. Petropoulos:

    Please consider this email as a request for a formal investigation as to why I am hearing about potential Board action against me as an employee of the Town from residents of the Town. Specifically, Mr. Robert Flynn, who has a citizens’ petition article on the Warrant to direct the Board not to renew my contract, sent a text message to a resident of the Town stating “wait until Monday’s article comes out, someone is going to get fired and it isn’t going to be funny.”

    When I sent a text message to the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen asking him to enlighten me, he did not respond, but sent a cryptic email saying he could not enlighten me and requested that Town Counsel be present at Monday’s meeting. It appears he is discussing personnel matters with a resident who has submitted an article to end my career with the Town of Groton.

    As I consider this extremely important, I would respectfully request that this be investigated immediately.

    Regards,

    Mark W. Haddad
    Town Manager

    Mark W. Haddad
    Town Manager
    Town of Groton
    173 Main Street
    Groton, MA 01450

    Degen recused himself after reading the letter, abruptly handing the meeting over to Vice Chair Anna Eliot to run.
    Town Counsel Brian Maser told the board that Haddad would need to file a written complaint specifying his complaint; what he thought should be investigated. Then the board could move forward if it wished. Because the investigation or hearing would be a personnel related matter, Degen would have the choice to have an open or closed meeting.

    Degen said after the meeting that he would insist on an open session.

    Although Haddad sent the email requesting an investigation on Sunday, he apparently had not followed up by the end of the day on Tuesday.

    Degen said on Tuesday that he could not “enlighten” Haddad on Saturday or Sunday because at the time he didn’t know what Haddad was talking about and thought he made that plain to Haddad. Quoting from Haddad’s email to the other selectmen, he stated that he wasn’t privy to anything Rob Flynn texted or said to any other resident, because the “other resident” wasn’t him. He added that Haddad was seriously mistaken to think that it was.

    Degen said again he was not involved in the text message Haddad received and didn’t know anything about the purported firing, “Nothing had been stated by me, nothing had been said by me of any action that might be taken by me, other than I requested town counsel be present at the beginning of our seven o’clock session on Monday evening. No legal paperwork was filed; no allegations were filed. Nothing was done,” he emphasized.

    “I’ve conducted my own investigation and I believe I know exactly what’s going on,” Degen went on. “This didn’t involve me in any shape or form. Based on the actions of the town manager, calling for an investigation, and subsequently bringing a police officer in to the selectmen’s meeting for what he stated was his own personal safety, I view it as an attempt at intimidation by Mark towards me. I’ll leave it at that.”

    “When Mark formally calls for an investigation, I’ll be releasing the facts. And should he not call for one, I’ll be calling for an investigation of him. This whole thing is ridiculous; ridiculous. I encourage, I implore, and I beg my fellow selectmen to launch the investigation,” Degen said.

    Flynn was equally adamant that Haddad made a serious error about the texts, but Flynn is convinced that Haddad is playing political hardball, a direct retaliation from Haddad at a group of residents who dared to stand up to him and call for nonrenewal of his contract.

    “Obviously the guy is trying to get back at me. Remind your readers that this is the gentleman who sent me an invitation to submit this thing (the citizen’s petition for a referendum on Haddad’s contract renewal). This is retaliation,” he said.

    Flynn explained that he had sent texts to several people after the Cable Advisory Committee met on Saturday to hear a request from Anna Eliot to fund part of a $6500 “informational” video on a proposed sewer for the Four Corners area of town. One of them apparently forwarded his text to Haddad, he said, who assumed he was the subject of the communications when he wasn’t.

    Monday evening, the drama continued when Degen, running the meeting at the front of the meeting room, noticed a Groton police officer sitting attentively at the back of the room. He quietly texted Police Chief Donald Palma to ask why he was there.

    Then he asked Haddad, a note of disbelief in his voice: “You asked for a police officer presence at this meeting from the chief of police tonight?”

    Haddad tried to deflect the question, saying: “What does that have to do with this particular discussion?” Then he admitted he had.

    Degen asked: “For what purpose?”

    “My safety,” he replied.

    Haddad, and then Eliot, tried to move the subject back to the presentation Haddad was giving and away from the unusual police presence. Eliot told Degen: “I would suggest you revamp your angst.”

    Degen said: “I find it a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars,” and the meeting went on.