To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Over the past three years the atmosphere at Hinsdale Select Board and town meetings has deteriorated to such depths that carrying on town business with any sense of decorum is difficult, if not impossible. The reasons are numerous and complex, but for the most part they are being caused by a group of residents who back two prior Select Board members who were not re-elected last May. They have seemingly set out to make it difficult for the new board to function.
While political differences will always exist, the process by which they are expressed should be done in a dignified and respectful manner. This has not been the case, especially in the past eight months. The dissident group has essentially objected to almost every move or decision the Select Board has made, disrupting meetings with a distinct lack of class and usually based on sketchy facts, misinformation and sometimes petty personal comments.
The group of objectors has now found a new way to cause long-lasting difficulty. Enter the petition to the state Legislature to establish a voter recall process which will be on the warrant list for the Special Town Meeting to be held Wednesday. Cloaked in the misrepresentation of "taking the town back," it is set up to be initiated by just 100 petitioners (of over 1,200 voters) and with only the need for 20 percent of the voters to participate in the subsequent recall vote. This is a small percentage and almost any issue might have 20 percent of the voters not agree with it.
As described in the warrant article the reasons for such recall would be malfeasance, incompetence, lack of fitness, corruption, neglect of duties and violation of oath. All are vague, generalized definitions, and, just who would decide the criteria and be the judge of whether the level of the offense is significant enough to warrant recall action? These are questions not answered in the warrant article.
As for the idea of corruption, illegal dealings and the like, Massachusetts General Laws and the State Ethics Commission have plenty of methods, regulations and processes that effectively allow for proper punishment and/or removal of violators. Towns that do have recall provisions use felonies or other specific legal infractions as reasons. If there is to be a recall it should have to be based in provable/supportable facts, not innuendo or petty personality conflicts.
The elected officials this would apply to are elected for relatively short terms. If they are not effective, vote them out next time. The time and expense involved in the recall simply might not be worth the portion of the term remaining.
It is illogical to allow a small group of unhappy people to easily erase the importance of the confidence your vote represents. We urge all registered Hinsdale voters to attend the special town meeting Wednesday at Kittredge School at 7 p.m. This recall provision is not in the town’s best interests.