HANSON — No one seemed to walk away satisfied with the outcome of the Board of Selectmen’s Tuesday, Aug. 23 discussions on the Recreation Commission’s recent mass resignation and conveyance of Camp Kiwanee oversight to Town Administrator Michael McCue.
Selectmen did not vote on accepting the resignations and, while at least three members indicated a willingness to wait for Labor Counsel Leo Peloquin to complete his investigation, or audit review, none offered to rescind their resignations.
“You can accept my resignation or not accept it, but I will not serve on the Recreation Commission any longer,” said former Recreation Chairman James Hickey.
Selectman Bruce Young angrily walked out of the meeting about an hour later — before business had been concluded.
His action came during a discussion before the special Town Meeting warrant was closed, changing his vote on placing an article seeking a request for proposals (RFP) on management of Camp Kiwanee.
“I don’t like what’s going on here,” Young said before he walked out. [See related story, opposite page]
The evening started with a large group of former Recreation Commission members, ex-caretakers and their supporters — holding signs and small red Solo cups — seeking public support outside Town Hall. The cups were in reference to the heated exchange in April between Young and then-interim Town Administrator Richard LaCamera over alleged improper drinking going on at the camp. LaCamera walked out of that meeting, leaving his resignation on his desk.
Signs for support
The sign-holders filled the Selectmen’s Meeting Room for the vote on the Recreation Commission’s resignations, asking questions about the process, status of the review and how McCue would oversee the camp.
“Typically, we don’t speak about resignations, we have not in the past,” said Selectmen Chairman James McGahan. Resignations are usually voted on with no comment other than an occasional expression of regret.
When the vote to accept resignations came up, there was no second made to the motion, so no vote was taken.
“I want to make it clear that, consistent with this board’s prior position, the board is not going to entertain discussion about the substance of the ongoing investigation into Camp Kiwanee,” McGahan said. “It’s not posted on the agenda. I can’t talk about that because we’d be in open meeting violation.”
He noted some town departments have run into problems doing that in the past, and pledged to hold an open meeting to fully discuss Peloquin’s report when it is complete. McGahan said he wanted to see that review completed by the end of September.
“I have asked Leo to make damn sure its done by the end of September,” he said.
The report will also be made public as is required by state law, according to Young, including all minutes of executive session discussions.
“The goal of the board and the town has been and continues to be to ensure that Camp Kiwanee is operated appropriately,” McGahan said. “Notwithstanding the recent developments, we intend to see to it that the scheduled events and programs take place.”
He said the town would appreciate the help of staff and volunteers in meeting that goal.
McGahan cautioned the audience would be gaveled down if “things got out of hand,” and did so on a few occasions, including prior to Young’s later walkout.
One resident asked if the resignations were accepted before the investigation concluded, it wouldn’t be doing a disservice to “our good citizens” on the Recreation Commission. Another wondered how McCue would run Camp Kiwanee. It was also asked if a vote on the resignations could be postponed.
McGahan countered that the board should move ahead with a vote and, when the positions came open again, members who resigned could reapply. He also declined to comment on what would be done if the investigation bore out a single person’s improper actions.
The lack of a vote left that situation a bit confused.
“How can we expect people to fill these positions if we allow the current Commission to resign?” asked Whitman resident Lillian Dignan, a former longtime Hanson resident.
“I don’t know,” McGahan said. “To me, that’s not germane to accepting the resignations.”
Young added that Selectmen are obligated by town bylaws to appoint a Recreation Commission, noting that the town administrator would step in to manage Camp Kiwanee on a temporary basis.
“That’s a stopgap measure,” Young cautioned. He did not second the motion to accept the resignations, and said he would not vote for it in hopes that the members — other than Hickey — would withdraw their resignations. The statement was met with loud applause.
At least four of the seven-member commission would have to return to resume oversight of the camp functions.
“I think this an unfortunate hot mess,” said Hanson resident Kimberly King, who has experience serving with an appointed authority, the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Board. “I think both sides have legitimate concerns, but I find it extremely upsetting that the Recreation Commission would just throw in their resignations before asking to go on the agenda in a public meeting to have this discussed. … Good people make mistakes and I think that’s where a lot of this comes from.”
Former commission member Susan Lonergan said that couldn’t be done because Selectmen are not part of the investigation and they were instructed by an attorney not to talk about it with them.
For his part, McCue was not particularly eager to oversee Camp Kiwanee, but said remaining staff members had indicated they will stay on and he would only be signing contracts or invoices and dealing with any personnel issues that might arise.
Teresa Santalucia asked if McCue would consult with the Recreation Commission on any problems that might crop up.
“We’ve run into a kind of gray area,” McCue said. “The board still has a letter of resignation from all these people in front of them. Until a majority of those people — if they so choose — rescind those resignations, I don’t have a board with whom to speak. … If there was a board to speak with, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
That prompted School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes, attending the meeting on another matter, to suggest asking if any Recreation Commission members wished to stay on until a report comes back.
“You’re putting them on the spot right now,” Hickey said.
McGahan said that was not the intention of asking who might wish to stay on.
“It’s your choice,” he said.
After a brief recess of discussion among the commission, three — Lonergan, Janet Agius and Sheila Morse — said they would wait until the investigation was completed before going ahead with their resignations.
“We have to work together on this,” Lonergan said. “We have to be heard and we haven’t been heard.”
Resident, and former Recreation Commission member, chairman and longtime Camp Kiwanee volunteer Joseph Baker asked how McCue would be able to manage the facility.
“Do you know how to pump the toilets? … How are you possibly going to manage the camp?” Baker asked. “This is a great asset to the town and now what we’re doing is causing this big [crap] storm. … How is this guy going to run the camp? He doesn’t know a thing about the camp.”
“We’re going to do the best we can on this,” McGahan said.
“What is the alternative?” Young said. “We don’t have four members who are willing to rescind their resignations.” Selectmen voted 5-0 to convey the oversight of operations to McCue.