To the editor of THE EAGLE:
The Lee town meeting August 20 was a reassuring example of how well our government works.
The town’s website listed a meeting agenda of eight items. Items two and six brought in a standing-room crowd, news cameras on tripods and roving reporters with pads and microphones. Item two was whether the police chief, suspended without pay following a federal indictment on criminal charges, should be terminated, reinstated, reimbursed, or something else. Items three, four and five were routine business, and six was public response.
Avoiding the federal issue, the Selectmen voted unanimously to terminate the chief for billing the town for paying for his family cellphone plan. Suddenly it was clear that the public was not about to sit through the mundane items waiting for six. They hurried to the lectern with what some called "a quick question," but was really a cry from the heart.
They were friends of the chief, they collectively said: they were in this very room when he was sworn in, or they knew his grandmother, or they went to school with him, or they would say with their last breath that he is a good man. (The defense lawyer had left to face the cameras outside, so missed out on ideas she could have used.) At the Selectmen’s table, Gordon Bailey saw that six had to be now. Without fussing about procedure, he managed to sidestep mines, hear out rants and keep order. Anyone who brought up the federal indictment was told that it was not in the scope of this meeting.
Eventually Patricia Carlino said something like -- I hope no one thinks this was an easy decision. We too were his friends. But it is our job to protect your money, and the money he was spending was yours.
When Bailey called for a break before routine business item three, the crowd dribbled out -- some angry, some dissatisfied about the cellphones, some puzzled, but all having had their say. The townspeople had come to the meeting, aired their views, shared their pain. A decision had been reached, everyone got home unharmed, and the chief is working on his defense.
Many people rail about how our government is broken. That may be, but it’s sure working well in Lee. LESLIE KANDELL