HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Oct. 11 tabled the appointments of a Zoning Board of Appeals member and associate member. A meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 25 to again take up the matter.
William Cushing and Charles White were re-applying, or applying for the post of member for a three-year term. Christopher Costello and Joshua Pratti were applying, or reapplying for the post of associate member for a three-year term.
White withdrew his application the next day.
Despite being admonished at the outset by Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett — on the advice of town counsel — not to mention “the I-word,” as she later in the meeting described the term “investigation,” it was nonetheless invoked nearly two dozen times by various participants in the 21:30-minute discussion. Town Administrator Lisa Green said the probe has been completed.
Select Board member Jim Hickey made the motion to table the appointments following discussions with White and Cushing.
“We were all set to go last Friday, when we thought there was a [ZBA] meeting tonight,” he said. “There wasn’t, so I’d like a few days, or possibly a week, depending on when the Zoning Board has their next meeting to look at this report.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett countered that while the board would read the report quickly, they would not do so as if they “had a gun to their heads” and say they would make the decision within a week. A ZBA meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 18, but chair Kevin Perkins said they should have the necessary three people.
“I want to be able to look through [the report],” Select Board member Joe weeks said, advocating for waiting until Oct. 25 “I want to make sure everybody gets a fair shake.”
For the parameters of the meeting, in addition, the investigation would not be an issue.
“We will not be discussing, or answering any questions regarding the ongoing ZBA investigation,” she said. “We will not be rehashing the events of our Sept. 27 meeting. Our legal counsel has advised us that we able to proceed with filling these vacancies tonight as we see fit.”
As the Select Board is the appointing authority, it is the board’s decision who will fill the vacancies, “and nobody else’s decision,” she stressed.
FitzGerald-Kemmett, admonishing would-be speakers that profanity or inappropriate behavior disrespectful of the board would not be tolerated, noting that those in violation would be asked to leave and, if they refused, the police would be summoned.
White, who was recently appointed to the Cemetery Commission, said he was interested in the full-time position as a way to become more involved in the town. A retired Weymouth firefighter and 20-year resident of Hanson, White worked as the fire prevention and training officer, explaining that the work made him familiar with building codes. While he knows “a little bit of zoning,” he admitted his knowledge is not extensive, but said he has also worked as an environmental engineer and is familiar with MGL 21E and state contingency plans. He said he didn’t know whether he knows anyone now serving on the ZBA.
Hickey said he has ethics disclosures from the other members, whether or not they are applying, but he hadn’t received one from White.
White said he was not aware of the requirement, but he was happy to do it.
Cushing, who had resigned, along with Pratti, on Sept. 27, when the board balked at approving another temporary appointment until town counsel had offered guidance, is a developer and builder — a fact he has always been open about.
“I always thought that would be an attribute to add to the town of Hanson because it’s important to understand the Zoning Board rules and regulation,” he said. “The think I think is hard with zoning is the people who try to learn it without any background in it.”
Cushing has served on the ZBA since 2015, starting as an alternate member, becoming a permanent one about six years ago. He has a bachelor’s degree in management and finance from Curry College and is in the real estate business, specializing in permitting and zoning.
Despite the caution against raising the topic, Cushing asked if the ZBA investigation was complete. FitzGerald-Kemmett repeated the admonition and asked if he had any other questions.
“I think the citizens should know,” he persisted. “Is the investigation complete, yet?”
“Not to the best of my knowledge,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
“Beyond that, I’m sure you’re aware that I’m more than qualified for the position,” he said, suggesting that White had a relationship with Select Board members Ann Rein and Ed Heal, saying he had seen “pictures of him on their election campaign.”
He compared that to “the biggest misconception” with the ZBA is that “some of us happen to be in the same industry and that might be misconstrued.
He then said he was not sure if the position for which he was applying should be filled until the investigation is complete, saying he felt the presumption was guilty until proven innocent with him.
“I was pretty clear at the beginning that we’re not talking about that,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
“It’s important,” Cushing retorted.
“The reason we’re here tonight is that [Kevin] Perkins emphasized that you guys are in peril of not having a quorum,” she said.
Cushing then argued that, if a permanent seat was not filled that night, two associate members should be appointed to help with the quorum problem.
FitzGerald-Kemmett explained that was not posted on the agenda for the meeting.
“You’ve already made your mind up, I can’t convince you of anything,” he charged.