HANSON — The Board of Selectmen have voted against re-appointing Conservation Commission Chairman John Kemmett and Vice Chairman Frank Schellenger.
In a tie vote, with Selectman Bruce Young abstaining, Kemmett’s reappointment was rejected Tuesday, June 28. Selectmen Don Howard and Kenny Mitchell vote for Kemmett with Selectman Bill Scott and Chairman James McGahan voted against him. Schellenger was not even nominated for reappointment.
Several residents, both at the meeting and via e-mail, had voiced support for both Kemmett and Schellenger.
Earlier in the meeting Selectmen also accepted with regret the resignation of Conservation Commission Clerk Brad Kirlin and voted 5-0 to appoint two new members — Sharon LePorte and William Woodward.
Both Kemmett and Schellenger are legally allowed to continue serving on the commission until replacements are appointed, according to Town Counsel Jay Talerman.
The votes came with little comment from selectmen, but followed a heated exchange between Kemmett and Young.
Resident Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett had questioned whether LePorte and Woodward’s past work on wetlands delineations for projects before the Conservation Commission would present a conflict of interest, and supported her husband’s reappointment. Delineations are reviews of land on which development is proposed to determine the boundaries of wetlands.
“I’d like to know if Ms. LePorte has done any work in Hanson, specifically on the Main Street property,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “I’d like to know if [she] has done work on the cranberry site, which has been the subject of quite a bit of contention, particularly with the Board of Selectmen.”
LePorte, recently retired, has worked for 20 years in the environmental field, including three years as Halifax Conservation agent. Woodward, also retired, has worked as a civil engineer for the town of Weymouth and Stoughton as well as doing work in Hanson and Halifax.
“I’m not questioning her credentials,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said of LePorte. “I’m questioning whether she has had a vested interest in a project that has been part of Hanson’s history and is likely to be part of Hanson’s future.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said it was her understanding that LePorte had done delineation work on the 1100 Main St. site where a developer has been trying to construct a commercial building since razing the old Ocean Spray building a few years ago. She later said the comments were not directed at LePorte, and also asked if Woodward had done any delineation work for Planing Board Chairman Don Ellis.
“I have done some delineation on the property,” LePorte said. “I have no vested interest that I could possibly imagine. …I hope somebody can do something with it, but I can’t state who.”
Woodward said he had done delineation work for “five or six different clients,” but would recuse himself if any came before him on the Conservation Committee.
McGahan said his main goal was to find people who could work well together and respect others.
Young said he was not sure what FitzGerald-Kemmett meant about controversy involving the Board of Selectmen and asked her to explain.
“I have no interest in the Main Street property, other than seeing it’s developed and put back on the tax rolls properly,” Young said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett referred to a Conservation meeting last summer, attended by McGahan, Young and Scott regarding the site, at which McGahan spoke in favor of helping the developer with orders of condition.
“Mr. McGahan made a point of saying at that meeting that he would not reappoint Mr. Kemmett and Mr. Schellenger because of the fact that he thought they weren’t playing ball with [Joseph] Mariangello,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. Mariangello is the developer at the 1100 Main St. site.
She said “playing ball” meant bypassing conservation by-laws, to which Young took strenuous objection.
“I have a real bad problem with that,” Young had said in response to FitzGerald-Kemmett’s comments.
McGahan cut the exchange short in the interest of decorum, but the issue came up again when Kemmett’s name had been placed in nomination.
Kemmett had asked if anyone could name a project, since he and Schellenger had been commissioners, that had been denied. No response was forthcoming.
Young then asked if Kemmett could name an instance when he had been pressured by any selectman or member of another board to “turn a blind eye to the conservation by-laws” or wetlands protection act to push a project through.
“That’s a difficult question,” Kemmett said, indicating he has felt intimidation. “Sometimes when someone is sitting in a room, especially where there’s a large group of selectmen, and a contentious project … and they don’t seem to feel the Conservation Commission was not voting in a positive way, it would seem intimidating and at that point it might seem that was a problem.”
Young became angry at the suggestion that selectmen would attend a meeting in an attempt to intimidate another board.
McGahan has said the Conservation Commission has to work better with the public in general practice, and said Wednesday he would like to thank Kemmett and Schellenger for their service to the Conservation Commission and the town.
“Honestly, its time for a change,” he said.
Selectmen also voted for a slate of appointments to town boards and commissions, replacing former Town Administrator Ron San Angelo with current Administrator Michael McCue on those boards San Angelo served.
Mitchell, who has served on the Parks and Fields Commission since before he was elected to the Board of Selectmen, was changed to a non-voting member until Town Meeting can vote to change the Commission’s by-laws.
“It is my understanding he is a very valuable member of this commission,” McCue said. “He can still participate … In the interest of that going forward I would make that suggestion.”
Resident Thomas Hickey, a former history teacher and currently superintendent/director of South Shore Regional Vocational Technical High School, was appointed to the Historical Commission through June 30, 2017.