Puddester, Kapiloff win seats on Williamstown Planning Board

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Two new members were elected on Tuesday to the town's Planning Board in a contest that sparked intense interest because of a businessman's proposal to build an inn at his South Williamstown golf course.

Susan Puddester, with 811 votes, defeated incumbent Sarah Gardner, with 681 votes, for a five-year term. David Kapiloff captured 732 votes to take the second five-year spot, holding off Anne Hogeland and Bruce MacDonald who received votes of 657 and 111, respectively. Planning Board member Elizabeth McGowan did not seek re-election.

Newcomers Puddester and Kapiloff have said they support the proposed inn at Waubeeka Golf Links.

The Planning Board race has been closely watched this spring as the Planning Board was in a heated debate over Michael Deep's proposal to build a country inn at his Waubeeka Golf Links.

Gardner's loss came a day after a Luce Road man filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against her, the timing of which she and others cast as a politically motivated bid to derail her re-election.

David M. Leja filed the Open Meeting Law complaint Monday, alleging that Planning Board members Gardner, McGowan, and Ann McCallum met behind closed doors to craft the so-called Gardner Amendment that puts restrictions on the Waubeeka inn proposal, which goes up for a Town Meeting vote later this month. Leja alleges their present and past employment situations with Williams College and their votes on a college-owned inn proposal show a bias against the Waubeeka inn plan. Gardner, McCallum and McGowan reject Leja's claims and deny they met as a quorum outside a public meeting.

On Tuesday, Leja filed an ethics complaint with the state Attorney General's office. In it, he claimed that phone messages left for him Monday by McCallum, who was named in his Open Meeting complaint, and Bill Densmore, who runs the GreylockNews.org news blog and a friend of Gardner's, as well as a phone call from Gardner's boyfriend, David Simonds, to Leja's next-door neighbor, amounted to harassment in retaliation for his filing the Open Meeting Law complaint.

"Certainly, for Ms. Gardner to have her supporter and her boyfriend acting as her surrogates to place these phone calls goes beyond an Open Meeting Law complaint and into harassment of me," Leja wrote in his latest complaint.

McCallum said she did call Leja on Monday "to ask him to tell me more about his allegations but never heard back from him."

Densmore also responded to Leja's complaint.

"On my GreylockNews.com, [a] personal blog not affiliated with a news organization, I have not sought to advocate for anything in particular other than transparency, like The Eagle. Readers can judge," Densmore said. "As an individual voter, I supported and voted for Sarah Gardner. I called Leja to seeking details from him of his Open Meeting Act filing."

Requests via email for comments from Gardner and Simonds on Tuesday evening went unanswered.

In 2005, Gardner and certain other members of the Planning Board at the time were admonished for an Open Meeting Law violation. The Board of Selectmen subsequently did not reappoint Gardner to the Planning Board. At the time, the Selectmen appointed the Planning Board members; since then, the board has become an elected body.

Meanwhile, in other town races, Jane Patton, chairwoman of the Williamstown Select Board, was re-elected. Jeffery Thomas, former chairman of the Williamstown Economic Development Committee, was also elected to the Select Board. Patton garnered 989 votes, and 871 people voted for Thomas. Cynthia Payne got 667 votes in her failed bid for Select Board.

After the results were announced, Patton expressed gratitude to the voters and to all the candidates for participating in town government.

"I am thankful for the turnout, the outcome and I am optimistic about the future of Williamstown," she said.

For the Williamstown Elementary School Committee, incumbent Dan Caplinger won re-election with 494 votes. Joseph Bergeron won the second open seat with 698 votes. Unsuccessful in their bids for school committee were Liam Brody, 449 votes; Maury McCarthy Lawson, 401 votes; and Sanjay Sharma with 373 votes.

Town Moderator Adam Filson was unopposed in his bid for re-election.

Deb DiMassimo and Robin Brickman, along with incumbents Peter Mehlin and Bridget Spann, were running unopposed for the four open seats on the Library Board of Trustees. Those are five-year terms.

Incumbent Charles Bonenti was elected unopposed to fill two years of an unexpired term on the Library Board of Trustees.

Nancy LaValley also ran unopposed for a two-year term on the Housing Authority, and David Westall was elected unopposed to a three-year term on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School Committee.

About 33 percent of the town's registered voters, or 1,562 people, turned out Tuesday. That was nearly double how many people voted in last May's local elections.

The winners of Tuesday's election start their terms on May 17.


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