Feb 212014

Groton has indeed lost a good one with the passing, all too soon, of Fran Dillon this past Saturday.

Fran was an active member of our community and most recently a three-term member of the Board of Selectmen from June 2003 through June 2012. As a member of the Board, Fran was the stabilizing influence which saw Groton’s transition under the charter to our current form of governance. He conducted himself as an experienced statesman (he frowned on being referred to as ‘elder’!) in his dealings and approach to the many issues which came before the Board and impacted the town. And when on the rare occasion he was not on the prevailing side of an issue, he had the grace to move on and accept the consensus of his fellow Board members. He led by example and even after leaving the Board in 2012, individual selectman would touch base with him from time to time to get his view on various issues.

While fiscally conservative, Fran in his political life was not someone who could be cast in any given political mold. He was supportive of open space acquisition projects, most notably Surrenden Farm, as well as our school system. He believed strongly that local government’s primary responsibility was providing the best service to townspeople at a cost that was reasonable and sustainable. So it was appropriate then that when he left this world this past Saturday, the Selectmen and Finance Committee were scrutinizing the municipal budget and making cuts to address the current budget challenges. I have no doubt that Fran was smiling down on us.

His presence will be sorely missed and we as a town have indeed lost a good one.

Peter Cunningham, Chairman
Board of Selectmen

Feb 152014

Selectman Fran Dillon announcing his retirement in 2012Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Selectman Fran Dillon announcing his retirement in 2012

“Fran” Dillon, lifelong Groton resident and senior statesman in many town government positions, died Saturday morning after a long illness. (Arrangement details are in Dillon’s obituary. — Ed.)

A short biography of Dillon was published in the 2011 Groton Annual Town Report:

George Francis Dillon is a bona fide Townie – living in the house on Kemp Street that his grandparents owned, where his mother and her eight siblings were born and where his mother was born and passed away in the same room. This home built in 1898 has been in his family for 110 years. His father emigrated from Ireland, worked at the local mill. His aunts, uncles and grandparents helped to build St. James Catholic Church. As a young man growing up in West Groton, Dillon had numerous jobs – at the Groton Leatherboard (now Rivercourt), at The Elms, at the Wharton Place on Broadmeadow Road, at Forcino’s Market (Now Country Butcher), at the First National Store (now Bruno’s Pizza) and at the Village Store (Sherwin’s Market).

He and his wife Janet raised their three children in West Groton and they and his grandchildren went to Groton public schools. Dillon served the town as a member of the Groton Finance Committee and most recently as a three-term Selectman. He graduated from college, served in the military during the Vietnam era, he rose through the ranks to become the President of Fitchburg and Valentine Paper Companies. He has traveled all over the world – from the jungles and slums of Brazil and Peru to Communist Romania, France, Switzerland, England, Germany, Ireland, and Austria to mention a few, but “there is just no place like home.”

He never moved. Dillon would commute to Louisiana to the paper company – fly home at the end of the week only to return south the following week. But Groton is his home, and he did whatever it took to come ‘home’ to the town that holds so many memories and so many friends.

Today, there are many, many residents that simply love this town, love the history, love the
character, and who are deeply grateful to all the townies for preserving the wonderful, diverse,
community that they built, nurtured, and cherished.

As Fran might say, you do not need to be a Townie to love, respect and protect this great
community, but it helps.

Jun 062012

The reorganized Board of Selectmen, from left: Anna Eliot, Chairman Stuart Schulman, Vice-Chairman Peter Cunningham, Clerk Jack Petropoulos, and Josh Degan.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

The reorganized Board of Selectmen, from left: Anna Eliot, Chairman Stuart Schulman, Vice-Chairman Peter Cunningham, Clerk Jack Petropoulos, and Josh Degan.

Selectman Peter Cunningham adjusts new BoS member Jack Petropoulos's temporary name plate before Petropoulos's first meeting.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Selectman Peter Cunningham adjusts new BoS member Jack Petropoulos's temporary name plate before Petropoulos's first meeting.

Selectman-elect Jack Petropoulos officially became Selectman Petropoulos Monday evening, at the Board of Selectman’s first meeting since his election win on May 22. Petropoulos beat political veteran Bob Hargraves and first-time candidate Erich Garger to fill the seat left vacant by 3-term selectman Fran Dillon’s retirement.

The Board also reorganized, a traditional post-election chore that puts the newest member in the role of Clerk. Peter Cunningham nominated Stuart Schulman as Chairman; a motion that all five members approved. Schulman replaces Anna Eliot. Then Schulman responded in kind by nominating Cunningham as Vice-Chairman; that motion also carried unanimously. The new roles will likely stay in place until after the 2013 elections, when Schulman’s and Degen’s current terms expire.

Apr 302012

A single seat on the five-member Board of Selectmen is the only office that has attracted multiple candidates in this spring’s town election on May 22. The seat is open because three-term Selectman Fran Dillon is retiring.

Two candidates seeking to take the chair for three years are political newcomers to Groton. Eric Garger has never held political office and did not list any volunteer offices on the questionnaire he filled out for The Groton Line; he is a state food and drug inspector. Jack Petropoulos has recently chaired the Central Fire Station Building Committee in Groton, and has held positions on conservation commission and open space planning committees in other towns before he moved to Groton. He is a software product manager and has 15 years experience as a manager of non-profit human services programs.

The third candidate is veteran Bob Hargraves, 74, who has been serving on the town Finance Committee since he retired as state representative in 2010. That year he ran for selectman, but lost. Hargraves has been a selectman before, has served as moderator, and has also been involved in the school system both as an employee and as a school committee member.

See the complete profile page.

Apr 052012

My name is Jack Petropoulos and I would like to announce my candidacy for Selectman of the Town of Groton Massachusetts, for the election to be held on Tuesday May 22, 2012. Here is why I am running, and what I think I can offer:

With Selectman Dillon”s decision to not seek reelection, Groton has lost a valuable set of technical and interpersonal skills. While I will humbly admit that I am no Fran Dillon, I believe that I have both the drive, and the analytical and interpersonal skills that it takes to succeed in the position; and to fill, in part, the void that his departure will leave.

I will not offer a broad range of promises that are under-researched and over-reaching. Instead I can say that, if elected, I would start with a focus on a particular set of issues that have come to my attention over the years, and to which I believe I can contribute some specific improvement. Beyond these, I can promise to apply my abilities to listen, to learn, and to act with passion and dedication as a member of a team, in the service of this wonderful Town.

I believe that I can help to make Groton a better place to do business. The things that I have heard from business owners in Town about the challenges that they face seem unacceptable for a community that is dependent on its downtown for its character.

I have seen Town initiatives pushed forward to the objection of residents who demanded a more transparent and well executed approach. My background is well suited to helping to advance a process that operates toward a mission, sets objectives and executes against them in a methodical manner. My participation in the current Center Fire Station Building Committee has shown me that I can contribute to the kind of process that people can feel comfortable with; knowing that their concerns have been heard and have been addressed thoroughly and with excellence.

Though I have established many connections throughout Groton over the years, I never cease to be amazed by the sense of community that exists here. I see this every day in the West Groton community where I live with my family on our small farm. Its historic roots and the connection that our many neighbors have to this property, remind me of how interconnected a community can be.

Today I am a Software Product Manager for one of Americas” largest companies, yet my roots are in small startups. I am familiar with the process and accountability that comes with working for a well oiled machine; but I also know how to wear many hats, how to get things done and how to spot and fix the gaps in a new and less refined system. I have spent time in the public sector as well, both professionally and as a volunteer. I have administered multi-million dollar budgets for DYS and for various correctional programs in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I have served as Chair of the Open Space Planning Committee in Hopkinton and on the Conservation Commission of Medway.

I would like to offer these things to the Town as my contribution to preserve what we value, and achieve what we want.

If you would like to learn more, to volunteer, or just to tell me what you think, we will have a kickoff event at the home of Jane Allen, 34 Shattuck St on Friday, April 13 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. If you can”t make it I am eager to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to read more about me, contribute, or let me know what you think at: www.jackpetropoulos.com .

If you would like to contribute, please send whatever you are comfortable with to:

Jack Petropoulos – Selectman
34 Shattuck St
Groton 01450

Thank you, and please vote on the 22nd.

Jack (John) Petropoulos

Apr 042012
Selectman Fran Dillon's Retirement Opens A Three-Way Contest To Succeed HimArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Selectman Fran Dillon's Retirement Opens A Three-Way Contest To Succeed Him

Two political newcomers and one of Groton’s political old hands are running a three-way race for the Selectman’s seat left open by Fran Dillon’s retirement. Erich Garger of Redskin Trail and Jack Petropoulos of Kemp Street are taking on Bob Hargraves, a former selectman and former state representative who now serves on the town Financial Committee. Hargraves ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Selectman’s race, finishing behind incumbents Josh Degen and Stuart Schulman.

The election will be held on May 22. Except for one one-year Water Commission seat to fill the remainder of an unexpired term, all offices are for three-year terms.

In contrast to the contested field for Selectman, a seat on the Park Commission is open and without candidates. David Howes is leaving the Park Commission when his term expires after the election this spring. In 2011, four candidates ran for two seats on the Park Commission. According to Town Clerk Michael Bouchard, an office without a candidate on the ballot would be filled by the write-in candidate who receives the most votes. If there are no write-ins, the seat would be filled by a joint appointment by the Park Commission and the Board of Selectmen.

Other boards and commissions have a match between openings and candidates seeking those openings. Three Planning Board seats are open. Two are likely to be filled by incumbents Russell Burke of Old Ayer Road and Carolyn Perkins of Reedy Meadow. Tim Svarczkopf, of Champney Street, is the third official candidate. Incumbent Ray Capes is leaving the board.

The Water Commission two openings. Incumbent Gary Hoglund of Duck Pond Road is seeking re-election. A one year opening created by the resignation of Alvin Collins on December 12, 2011. Jessica Cajigas of Orr Road was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to fill Collins’ vacant seat on February 6 and is running for the reminder of his term in this election.

The list of incumbents seeking reelection to their positions and who are running unopposed includes:

  • Town Clerk Michael Bouchard
  • Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee members Berta Erickson of Boston Road and Alison Manugian of Shepley Street
  • Groton Library Trustees Kristen Von Camp of Lowell Road and Jane Allen of Shattuck Street.
  • Board of Assessors member Jenifer Evans of Smith Street
  • Board of Health Commissioner Susan Horowitz of Lowell Road
  • Commissioner of Trust Funds Joseph Twomey of Martins Pond Road
  • Groton Electric Light Commissioner Kevin Lindemer of Boston Road
  • Sewer Commissioner Tom Hartnett of Martins Pond Road
  • Housing Authority member Alicia Hersey of Old Ayer Road

The retirement of long-time Town Moderator Robert Gosselin opens that office to an unopposed run by Jason Kauppi of Townsend Road.

Feb 272012

Mark Haddad

Mark Haddad

The Board of Selectmen attempted to write the final chapter in the months-long controversy surrounding Town Manager Mark Haddad’s “inappropriate” electronic relationship with town resident Meghan Volpe by having Chairwoman Anna Eliot read a brief statement near the end of its regular Monday evening meeting. The statement noted that private investigator Arthur Parker’s report into Haddad’s actions between February and November 2011 had been received and acted upon, and was available “for review and inspection” in the town clerk’s office.

No copies of the report were distributed at the meeting, nor was it available on the town’s web site. (A copy was obtained from Michael Bouchard, Groton Town Clerk as soon as his office opened Tuesday morning. Click to see the PDF.)

Despite the lack of copies for review, Eliot stated: “We believe the findings speak for themselves. The board has expressed its displeasure that the town manager would engage in conduct that would cause a distraction and result in unnecessary expenses for the town. Mark has been contrite throughout this matter and understands that his actions were inappropriate. To confirm the Board’s position that his actions were indeed inappropriate and reflected adversely on town government, we have placed a letter of disapproval in Mark’s employment file and informed him that any future such conduct will not be tolerated.”

She continued: “Nevertheless, we support Mark and his performance as town manager and his appointment and do not believe that his private actions here will effect his ability to serve as town manager in the future.” Eliot concluded by saying: “The Board considers this matter closed.”

The Board passed a vote of confidence in Haddad by a vote of 4-1 during a closed-door meeting on February 22. Because the action took place in executive session, it was not known which selectman made the motion that led to the vote of confidence, but according to the statement that Eliot read, Selectman Josh Degen cast the sole opposing vote.

In addition to Parker’s report, Selectman Peter Cunningham said that “Additional information did come to light, and the board did not feel that additional investigation was warranted, based on the nature of the information.”

Degen expanded on that, saying: “Based on Selectman Cunningham’s response… I did attempt to bring forward information during executive session and this board, through a motion, chose not to allow it to be introduced. So while some of the information was discussed in generality, none of the information was brought forward. I had a Powerpoint presentation that I wanted to present, and that was not allowed by the board.”

Eliot testily refused three times to answer a reporter’s question about a key focus of the investigation — whether Haddad used town resources to send and receive phone calls, instant messages, and emails, repeatedly telling the reporter to get a copy of the report.

Cunningham defused the situation by calmly and politely answering the reporter, saying: “We did not feel that there was any misappropriation of town resources. The investigation did identify area which are not unique to Mr. Haddad or anyone else in a work situation who may use resources at work (phone and computer) for certain personal issues and things that come up. That’s an area that we will ask our human resources department to look at and to draft some policies to clarify some of the nuances in the way that policy is interpreted.”

Selectman Fran Dillon noted that some existing town policies and procedures were not followed by the board. Apparently the investigator’s report also makes some recommendations about changing some policies or making new policies, to deal with similar situations.

Although she had not yet seen the report, Volpe said in an email: “The investigation should conclude that I never once lied, and that the time frame of conversations and communications shows that Mr. Haddad did in fact use his town-paid-for cell phone and computer and communicated with me on non-town-essential issues during town business hours and critical town meetings. And yet, it seems that some of the Board has determined they don’t care about this evidence, or that there was unethical and immoral behavior by the TM, which is clearly contrary to the stipulations of our Town Charter.”

“It is shocking to me that the Board would spend taxpayer money to investigate a matter and then ignore the results. What was the point? I am at a loss for words for how something like this can happen in our day and age, but it should never be allowed to happen again. I truly hope the BoS decides to adopt the recommendations made by Mr. Parker. I want to thank Josh Degen for being the only Selectman to publicly display his outrage over the situation of the last four months.”

Feb 162012

A day after the Groton Board of Selectmen received paper copies of an investigator’s report into Town Manager Mark Haddad’s electronic relationship with a resident last year, Groton Selectman Josh Degen has issued a press release that announces his intention to call for a “No Confidence” vote by the Board of Selectmen on Haddad. If the vote takes place, and if four members of the five-member board agree, Haddad could be dismissed under an “escape hatch” clause in the town charter.

The Board of Selectmen were reported to be setting a day and time for a meeting next week in which they would enter executive session to discuss the report. Because the topic is personnel-related, at least 48-hour notice and a copy of the report must be given to Haddad. The Board of Selectmen’s next official meeting is scheduled for February 27th, because of the President’s Day holiday falling on this coming Monday. It was not clear if Degen’s proposed vote would be part of that review meeting or if it would be treated as a separate item, possibly in a different meeting.

Degen’s press release is a “personal, individual, statement” and does not come from the board as an official body, he said.

In the release, he wrote that:

The Groton Town Charter has a provision for removal of the Town Manager. It requires a 4/5th affirmative vote to remove the individual from his or her position… Therefore, pursuant to section 4-3 of the Charter of the Town of Groton, I shall call for a vote of confidence in the Town Manager by my fellow board members. During this vote I specifically call attention to the moral standards provision contained within section 1-8 of our Charter.

That section of the town charter, “Section 1-8: Ethical Standards,” reads: “Elected and appointed officers, employees and volunteers of the town are expected to demonstrate, by their example, with their general conduct and in the performance of their duties and responsibilities, the highest ethical standards to the end that the public may justifiably have trust and confidence in the integrity of its government.”

Degen’s statement cites two separate instances that he said violate that clause and warrant the “no confidence” vote.

His statement continues:

In the fall of 2011 a constituent e-mailed me with concerns about Mr. Haddad’s conduct. The e-mails and conversation with this person ultimately showed that both the constituent and Mr. Haddad had conducted a consensual and continual exchange via texting, e-mail and phone over a six-month period. Mr. Haddad has readily admitted to this fact.

Some of the material reviewed by me showed that Mr.Haddad used extremely inappropriate language and behavior with this individual. It is my feeling that a recently married man should not engage in such activities thus potentially violating his marriage vows. But that is, at the heart of it, a personal matter.

It becomes a matter of public concern when a public official’s “private” actions and ethical judgments are made public and have a significant impact both on the person’s reputation and his ability to perform his public job functions. And in this case, that has happened.

The second issue dates back to Haddad’s contract negotiations three years ago, Degen said.

In his statement, he wrote:

When our BoS selected Mr. Haddad, I was Chairman. During final contract negotiations prior to the signing of his contract, Mr. Haddad promised Selectman Fran Dillon and myself that anything that may have allegedly occurred in his past was just that, alleged, and untrue. He further promised the two of us that he would never do anything to jeopardize the BoS, the people of Groton, or his job.

Mark’s promise has been broken through his actions. While this situation may not place the town in a legal dilemma, I can no longer trust Mr. Haddad as I believe he has both lied to us and has compromised his ability to lead; his behavior taints any decisions that affect the town’s future. We all hold morality to different standards in each of our own mind’s eye. I know that I have been far from perfect, but as a public leader, I do hold myself to a high moral standard. The BoS has now concluded an investigation on the actions of our current Town Manager.

I cannot in good conscience continue to give my vote of confidence to Mark Haddad as our Town Manager.

It is my feeling that Mr. Haddad’s personal actions have severely and irretrievably affected his ability to function as Groton’s Town Manager. I sincerely hope that enough members of the Board of Selectmen agree with me that we can move on from this chapter and restore full confidence in both the elected and appointed elements of the town administration.

Selectman Fran Dillon could not be reached to confirm Degen’s narrative of Haddad’s promise during contract negotiations.

Selectman Stuart Schulman said that he didn’t think Haddad’s actions had risen to the level required for him to support a “No Confidence” vote; that while they were questionable, they still seemed not to be illegal. Selectman Peter Cunningham is refraining from commenting until the BoS meets with Haddad, the procedure the BoS has already agreed upon. Chairwoman Anna Eliot could not be reached for comment.

Feb 152012

Groton Selectman Josh Degen filed an unprecedented public records request with the town clerk this morning (02/14/2012), seeking “… all communications via email, letter, or phone conversation” between Groton Board of Selectmen Chair Anna Eliot, town counsel David Doneski of the Kopelman and Page law firm in Boston, and private investigator Arthur Parker of Billingsgate Associates related to the ongoing investigation into Town Manager Mark Haddad’s electronic relationship with a Groton resident.

Degen said he agonized over the unusual step after leaving Monday night’s BoS meeting unsatisfied with a surprise delay of Parker’s investigation that routed his report to Doneski instead of the five town selectmen and Eliot’s explanation of how and why the re-routing occurred (see related story on the BoS meeting). “I was awake until 1:30 this morning, worrying about it, wondering if I should file it,” he said. In the end, he said, he thought the selectmen should receive the raw information that Parker gathered during his investigation, as specified in the BoS contract with Parker, and then make a decision on how to handle it.

Degen, in the hand-written request, claims an exemption from being denied access to the communications because the request is related to an action in which all the selectmen, including himself, are a party.

Doneski is the usual arbiter of how the town complies with public records requests under state law and Eliot is the official keeper of records for the BoS. Town Clerk Michael Bouchard said that Degen’s request had been forwarded to each of them so they could issue a formal response as required by state law. Under state law, the town has 10 days to respond to the request with an acknowledgment.

Feb 142012

Groton Board of Selectmen (l-r) Eliot, Dillon, Cunningham, Schulman, and Degen discuss the elusive investigator's report.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Groton Board of Selectmen (l-r) Eliot, Dillon, Cunningham, Schulman, and Degen discuss the elusive investigator's report.

The private investigator’s report into Town Manager Mark Haddad’s electronic relationship with Groton resident Meghan Volpe may be a step closer to arriving in town hall, but the content of the report and exactly “When will it get here?” are still unanswered questions.

According to a brief statement read by Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Anna Eliot during Monday evening’s BoS meeting, a “Preliminary report was delivered to town counsel for legal review on Friday (February 10)” by Arthur Parker of Billingsgate Associates instead of being delivered to the board. The detour to David Doneski’s desk at the Kopelman and Page law firm in Boston apparently took all selectmen except Eliot by surprise. At last Monday’s BoS meeting, all selectmen reviewed and signed a contract with Parker that includes the instructions: “Unless waived by the Town, the Investigator shall provide a written report to the Board within fifteen days of the conclusion of the investigation conducted hereunder, which shall include a detailing of the hours worked and activities performed and the findings and conclusions of the investigation.” (Click here to view the contract.)

Selectman Stuart Schulman was eager to receive the report and help the town move onward. “I mean, when are we going to get it?” he asked Eliot. “That’s the question. And what is he (Doneski) doing, exactly?”

Eliot did not know when Doneski would present the report, or what work still remained to be done in the investigation or the report, saying: “It’s not in its final form. Mr. Parker has not produced the final draft.” Without giving any details, she explained that “I am adhering to a process that I believe is in the best interests of the town.”

Selectman Josh Degen said in the meeting: “I have serious issues with the report having been delivered to town counsel and not delivered to the board. The agreement, the four-page agreement which we signed and executed, specifically on page one says that the report should be provided to the selectmen, not the town counsel. And I don’t understand why something that we authorized ended up in the hands of counsel. I personally don’t care what the legal ramifications are to either the town manager, the person making the complaint, or this board. What I care about are the findings of the investigation. That we didn’t receive that directly is basically a slap in the face to the members of this board.”

Selectman Stuart Schulman was eager to receive the report and help the town move onward. “I mean, when are we going to get it?” he asked Eliot. “That’s the question. And what is he (Doneski) doing, exactly?”

The investigation was initiated in December 2011, to determine if Manager Mark Haddad”s electronic communications with Meghan Volpe last year involved town time, resources, or equipment. Doneski recommended Parker as the investigator because his firm had worked with Parker in the past, Eliot and Selectman Peter Cunningham said. At the time, board members hoped the report would be delivered in January. Then the delivery date slipped into early February and a second time, to mid-month. Eliot didn’t have a firm delivery date for the report, but said she hoped it would be this week.

When Doneski — or Parker — delivers the report to the town, the five selectmen will receive the report. After they review it individually, they may elect to meet to discuss the report. If they also choose to meet with Haddad, state law requires that he be given 48-hour notice of the board’s intention to meet and to be provided with a copy of the report.

Eliot told the other board members that she had received notice the initial $3000 allocated in the contract would be exceeded several weeks ago and had communicated that fact to every board member. Degen replied that he had not been told; the other selectmen were silent. The contract the selectmen signed last week includes: “Investigator shall not perform services that will result in billings that will exceed $3,000.00 without further written authorization of the Town.”