Calls grow for Monterey Select Board member Coburn to resign

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This story has been corrected to reflect the proper population figures for Monterey in winter and summer, according to the U.S. Census.

MONTEREY — A citizen petition seeking the resignation of Select Board member Donald Coburn was the fourth public call for him to step down from town leadership in the past three months.

Coburn, elected in May, responded to the petition request the same way he has all the others, including one by the Select Board chairwoman: No.

"I have no interest in resigning — even if 20 or 30 people think I should," Coburn told the Eagle on Tuesday.

Coburn cannot be forced off the board; Monterey does not have an election recall bylaw.

In calling for his resignation, people have complained about Coburn's interpersonal skills and leadership style, using words to describe him that include belligerent, contentious and disrespectful. Coburn, a retired judge, has also been accused of being a stickler and interrogating people like he's in court. Select Board members Kenneth Basler and Chairwoman Carol Edelman have said that Coburn's actions have impeded town government.

Coburn said that he hasn't had trouble with anyone in town other than his other fellow board members and Administrative Assistant Melissa Noe, who declined to comment for this article.

"I have not had conflict of any kind with anyone in the government or the town apart from Kenn, Carol and Melissa Noe," Coburn said in an essay in the monthly Monterey News. "I have criticized them on occasion and, to put it mildly, they don't react well to criticism."

Coburn has said that Basler and Noe are untrustworthy, the town needs more transparency, and Edelman, as chair, might be biased in whether to call for votes.

Coburn said that his attention to detail has saved the town money. By refuting a financial firm's claim for more money than the contracted price for service, Coburn said, he saved the town $35,000. He was also influential in settling a lawsuit filed by a developer against the town, helping to avoid high legal fees, Coburn said.

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Requests for resignation

The citizen petition calling for Coburn's exit was organized by Monterey resident Michael Banner and submitted to the Select Board on March 20. Monterey's wintertime population is about 960 residents — it will increase to about 3,000 over the summer — and there are 25 to 30 signatures on the petition.

"The general opinion was that even those who voted for DC [Coburn] were not happy with his tenure on the Select Board and felt he was not working for the good of the town," Banner wrote in an email that accompanied the petition.

Other requests for Coburn to resign include an essay written by Edelman that appears alongside Coburn's article in the March Monterey News. Edelman did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

"Don's verbal and written attacks continue and it has become difficult and miserable if not impossible to continue to function effectively as a select board under these circumstances," Edelman wrote. "I ask that Don resign from the board."

A third request was made in a letter, published in the February edition of the Monterey News, written by Pamela Johnson.

Coburn "has continued with belligerent behavior in meetings and his interactions with elected and appointed officials, employees and residents have frequently been contentious and disrespectful," she wrote. "It's time for him to resign."

From the audience at a January Select Board meeting to hash out complaints that Noe and Coburn had filed against each other, former board member Scott Jenssen asked Coburn to resign.

It is not clear how the Select Board will move forward. Basler declined to comment for the article, except to say that he never has experienced a situation like the one on the board before.

"Not in all my years," said Basler, 72.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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