Move to oust Moultonborough planning board pair fails, 5-0
MOULTONBOROUGH — To the roaring approval of about 60 residents, selectmen unanimously decided to put an end to an effort led by the town administrator to remove two elected planning board members.
Two public hearings were scheduled by the board for Monday to remove Planning Board members Josh Bartlett and Judy Ryerson. Complaints about their conduct during recent meetings prompted Town Administrator Carter Terenzini to bring to selectmen formalized reasons for the pair’s removal.
But despite disagreement among board members, selectmen voted 5-0 after a three-hour hearing to drop the case against Bartlett.
As the second hearing started, Selectman Russell Wakefield motioned to drop the case against Ryerson; the motion passed 5-0.
Selectman Jonathan Tolman summed up the feelings of the board before the vote.
“I think the conduct issues are very serious, but does that rise to the point of removing a board member?” he asked. “I don’t think so. I think the place to remove a board member is in the voting booth.”
Terenzini argued that on two recent requests before the board, Bartlett had violated several protocols and rules of operation that public officials are required by law to follow.
Bartlett stated publicly he would vote one way on a request and then voted another, Terenzini said, and also was frequently heard making disparaging remarks about other town officials, particularly about members of the zoning board.
“He frequently opines about the validity of ZBA decisions, even on issues that had already been adjudicated,” Terenzini said.
Bartlett argued that he had a right to change his mind, and said his negative comments toward other boards and board members should have been taken as “constructive criticism.”
Several planning board members rose and said their board had voted against removal of Bartlett and Ryerson, and voiced support for their fellow board members. Three lawyers in the audience rose at different times to say the selectmen had acted illegally in holding a so-called “non-meeting” of the selectmen several weeks ago with the town’s lawyer, when it was decided to hold the hearings.
No minutes of the meeting were taken, town officials said, prompting claims from residents that the board had violated Right to Know laws.
At the beginning of Bartlett’s hearing, Selectman Chris Shipp asked that the hearing be stopped because neither Planning Board member had been given the names of the complainants. In fact, neither knew the nature or details of the complaints, as the selectmen had not made public any information about the claims.
Shipp’s motion was defeated, 2-3, and the hearing went on.
Though Wakefield and other board members said after Bartlett’s hearing that they didn’t feel an apology to Bartlett and Ryerson was in order, Shipp and Selectman Ed Charest apologized publicly before the board ended its business.
“I’m sorry that we put you through this,” said Shipp.