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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: 'Can I Help You?'

Resident Michael Troiano says his view of the current Board of Selectmen is mixed over how the Lavender issue is being handled.

Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting left me proud of my fellow citizens and police force, but embarrassed by the behavior of the man who leads our most prominent governing body.

The meeting was civil, measured, and focused right from the start. Mr. Haarde deserves much of the credit for this, having begun the meeting by recapping the facts of the situation, framing the acceptable scope of the discussion, acknowledging goodwill on all sides, and calling for a neighborly dialog. He is to be commended for this, regardless of where people stand on the issue.

Chief of Police Glavin conducted himself in similar fashion. There can be little doubt given his professionalism, facility with the facts, and patient, thorough, even-handed response to every question asked of him that those of us who live in Sudbury are being served and protected by people who know what they’re doing.

Some of the facts that came to light took some of the more inflammatory issues off the table, at least for me. It turns out Lavender was at least arguably licensed to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. that night, even though their stated closing time was 10 p.m. This issue was raised again and again in the meeting, as though it were some kind of smoking gun. While it is appropriate for town government to place upper limits on the time during which alcohol can be served, however, it is most definitely not the place of town government to dictate hours of operation for a private business. If there was money to be made beyond their intended closing but within the legal limits of their license, I say good for them. 

The real culprit in this respect seems to have been a liquor license written with too loosely defined limits, notably the ability of the licensee to serve alcohol later in the case of a “Special Event,” without a clear definition of what such an event is. Let’s not make that mistake again, shall we?

Beyond that recommended policy change … what I and others at the meeting remained troubled by was the conduct of Chairman O’Brien that night.

First off, Mr. O’Brien was certainly among (and perhaps in front of) a group of officials and town employees going directly from an official event to a local drinking place to “celebrate a great meeting,” in the words of Mr. Drobinski at last night’s meeting. Were they celebrating the successful protection of conservation lands and balanced budget, as Mr. Drobinski went on to indicate? Or were they celebrating the break with tradition that installed Mr. O’Brien as chairman, at the expense of Mr. Haarde? If the former, one would expect Mr. Haarde to be invited to the party. He was not, in fact, which might indicate to a reasonable person that the celebration taking place at Lavender came at his expense.

But you know, who can say? Politics has winners and losers, and sometimes the winners celebrate, even when they win in ways their opposition believes to be unfair.

Second, it’s notable that the restaurant in question was supposed to be closed at the time Mr. O’Brien and company arrived. Would it have remained open for you or I, if we’d shown up after closing, as surely happened given the duration of the preceding BOS meeting?

Again, who can say? Perhaps the giddy throng provided a chance for a small business owner to make a few extra bucks within the limits of the law. Perhaps Mr. O’Brien is friendly with the Lavender owner, and arranged for this in advance. Maybe it just pays to be a good guy, or at least a good customer.

Third, it seems this celebration extended well past the point where Lavender should be serving alcohol, in the absence of a “Special Event.” Again I’d ask … would you or I have gotten the same treatment? And again a reasonable person might respond, “Who can say?” There was a Celtics playoff game that night, though it ended at 10:20. Perhaps Mr. O’Brien’s ascent to the Chairmanship constituted a “Special Event,” if not in the eyes of the Lavender proprietor, then in those of Mr. O’Brien.

Who can say?

Beyond that, though, it gets a lot harder to look away.

When the "Celebration of Whatever" extended to a little past the point where even the "Special Event" clause was in play, a police cruiser made its presence known to the owner and the patrons. We know this since it’s stated in the police report. A cruiser came by at a little after 1am, making a reasonable and customary “fly by” to indicate that it was time for people to leave. At that time there were about 20 cars in the Lavender parking lot, and some of the owners of those cars began to leave right away.

You and I would probably have left then, even if we’d have behaved just as Mr. O’Brien did up to that point. Chief Glavin actually stated in the meeting that a cruiser fly-by is usually all that’s required to do this in our town, to get people to wrap things up and head home.

But Mr. O’Brien did not leave that night. We know this because when that same officer came back at a quarter to 2, called for backup, and entered the restaurant, Mr. O’Brien was still there.

And we know this because Mr. O’Brien approached the officers as they entered the restaurant, recognizing him immediately. And what did the Chairman of our Board of Selectmen say to the police as they entered a local restaurant close to 2 a.m. – almost four hours past its usual closing time, nearly two hours past its typical license to serve alcohol, and just about a full hour past the point where a police cruiser visited the restaurant to indicate the point at which patrons should be heading home even in the case of a “Special Event?”

He said, “Can I help you?”

Now … do you think Mr. O’Brien said that more like a Zappo’s customer service rep, or more like Robert DeNiro in pick-your-favorite-Robert-DeNiro movie?

I’m thinking the latter. Who can say.

What I can say is that it sure seems like Mr. O’Brien – after what is certainly a very long time of what is arguably very good service to our town – has reached the point where it’s time to step down.

So what do we do now?

I know there are those looking to pursue aggressive action to make this happen right away, encouraged by the oddball missing persons report that triggered this fiasco, and the alleged OUI that may have resulted from it. After last night’s meeting I have to say I’m less interested in those efforts. The truth is there is we have no means for a recall in Sudbury, and the effort to pursue one will only divide us further.

It’s worth noting, though, that Sudbury is one of the few towns left in Massachusetts without the checks and balances necessary to avoid this situation in the future. Even if Mr. Drobinski and Mr. Haarde agreed that Mr. O’Brien had violated the public trust and should be penalized, they have no power to do so. 

It is time for use to fix that … for the people of Sudbury to install the powers of censure, recall and expansion to five or sevent selectmen in our charter.

This should not be a divisive conversation about recalling Larry O'Brien. This should be a decisive conversation about installing the necessary checks and balances into Sudbury's charter to prevent the next abuse of power from happening.

Here’s my understanding of what that takes:

  1. 200 signatures on a petition from the Town Clerk to call a Town Meeting.
  2. 50 signatures on petitions from the Town Clerk on separate articles for Censure, Recall and Expansion and perhaps term limits.
  3. Town meeting is held, votes are taken, if they pass they go to legislature to be ratified into our charter

The Town Meeting votes could happen right away - the legislative rubber stamp could take up to a year but now is the time to get started.

The problem we can fix is that power is concentrated in the hands of people undeserving our trust, and we have no means of holding them accountable.  Let’s focus on that right now, and then on removing Mr. O’Brien at the appropriate time.

Michael Troiano

342 Lincoln Road

Nanette LaRochelle June 28, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Very well stated Mr. Troiano. Based on the discussions I've had, as well as heard, I don't think fulfilling the required number of signatures would be a problem at all. In fact, my recommendation would be to make sure there is plenty of paper on each one of those petitions. Maybe you've just identified the silver lining of this cloud that is hanging over Sudbury....a way to rectify this situation so that the citizens of this town have the ability to right a wrong when an abuse of power occurs. Nanette LaRochelle Prides Crossing Rd.
Alison June 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM
I am glad to see this thoughtful letter and agree with many of his points. After viewing Tuesday night's selectmen's meeting I was glad to see attendees behave in a far more appropriate fashion as Michael noted. I, too, think it is appropriate to have a recall method available in the future. However, if that is established, I hope it will never be used to recall a selectmen for an incident such as this. As pointed out by the last speaker at the meeting, as far as scandals goes this is pretty lightweight and I get the impression from people I speak to that that the majority of people in this town agree with that point and are dumfounded by the level of frenzy on the Patch.I hope that people would have a sense of balance and would only go to the length of recalling someone for far worse behavior than staying late in a bar As much as people have tried, no one has made a factual case that it is any more than that.
Julia Werbinski Fitzgerald June 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Well said Mr. Troiano.....well said!
SkimThreePercent June 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Here again, well intentioned folks find themselves trying to address the symptoms rather than the cause of the illness. Sudbury is a transient community now where young people come because they have been told by their real estate broker that this place has a good school system (it's for the children). No longer true. Disfunctional nanny State in constant confusion. O'Brien has this all figured out and he stays two or three steps ahead of the possy including both Five-0 and the various ad-hoc vigilanty groups that surface from time to time only to fade away after one or two episodes (Larry's follies). To treat the illness: Change the Town Charter to a representative form of Town Meeting government. Get a new Moderator. Fire the drunks, misfits, and incompetent Town employees. Hold an alternative Candidates debate forum not hosted by the LWV. Wake people up and get them involved BEFORE the election. Create a K12 school system. Find some Townies or long timers to guide the transient population in making good choices rather than the flavor of the week. Don't reelect Gutch. Find a new Town Council. Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.
M June 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Are you going to start the petition? It seems that is the only thing keeping this from getting off the ground.
Enuff June 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
If the petition is not started soon, the summer will be here and people will let this go. O'Brien, Drobinski and Valente are smart enough to know that every day that passes without a petition is another day closer to this fiasco being behind them. It is time to right the ship here in Sudbury. Things have gotten completely out of control.
Markian June 28, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Alison, the question I would like to ask is, where do we draw the line when our elected officials abuse their power and behave like this? You are right, this is "pretty lightweight" but what the last speaker failed to do is put things into perspective. We are a small town with a low crime rate and small scandals. These are the issues we have to deal with. If these issues were to ever get worse, I would have to reconsider living in Sudbury. It is important to curb abuses early and put the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure that more serious abuses do not happen in the future. He is right, we are not “perfect people” but we are not above the laws and regulations put forth by the state and/or Town of Sudbury. I expect better from our elected officials and they should not be putting local business owners in a position where they may be violating a law/regulation, especially when they are part of the process of issuing liquor licenses and informing the board of possible violations.
Michael Troiano June 28, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Thanks for the feedback, folks. M - Yes, I plan to get it up and running in the next day or so, and will post a linke here and on the Lavendergate Group ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/248320571935814/ )
joanne June 28, 2012 at 09:39 PM
How about the members of Lavergate start supporting the parents with the SPSC??!!! This is just as messy if not more- Can you hear your property values dropping???
Alison June 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Ian-- I appreciate your reply but in reality this is the same as Wisconsin. It is obvious that for many of the frequent flier patch people,it is not about values. It is not about ethics. It is about political agendas that in reality have little to do with Lavender and more to do with not being able to accept loosing an election gracefully. The outcome will be the same as Wisconsin. The recall will fail and the town will be even more divided. The time to make changes is at the ballot box when Larry, John or Bob are next up for election.
M June 28, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I hear the property values dropping from the 200 plus units of housing being built all in one spot in South Sudbury. Do you?
SueChap June 29, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Joanne, couldn't agree with you more. In principal the issues are the same, and the impact the same. Good leadersihp ensures a good community for our town, our property, and our children. Bad leadership has just the opposite effect.
joanne June 29, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Joe my family has been in town since 1925! Does that answer your question!!!
Edward Stark June 29, 2012 at 01:53 AM
To Joanne's point there are many issues in town on many different people's radars. Lavender, Mrs. J, Johnson Farm, etc. I hope we have all learned our lesson and at March's elections if we're not happy with a particular leader we VOTE THEM OUT!
Edward Stark June 29, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Another issue we should begin to discuss in the near future is replacing town council. Did anyone else watch the BOS meeting on Tuesday night? What the heck was that? Surly we can find somebody better willing to work 3 hours a week for $90k!!!
siobhan hullinger June 29, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Yes - you are right - it IS political, simply because those who hold political office are not abiding by their mandate. I simply don't want my "political" officials having a private agenda that pushes unwanted and unneccesary 40B housing when our own CURRENT inventory falls well ABOVE the 10%. I also don't want my "political" officials pushing a sewer that is simply to increase their own home. I also want my " political" officials to understand the financial impacts of their decisions and not ignore them because they " aren't a numbers guy". I also don't want my " political" officials to send emails at election time with untruths in order to manipulate the public. I also WANT my "political" officials to pay their income taxes, abide by the same rules and by- laws I have to, have real estate assessments that are in line with the rest of us, allow for townspeople's voices to be heard, transarency etc etc etc. I don't want my "political" officials to speak at DARE when they can't make the "right" choices on their own. I also want the ability to have checks and balances. YES it IS political.
Kirsten Vandijk June 29, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Mr. Troiano, As a former member of the private group called Lavendergate I have a simple question to ask you--Could you please be transparent and publish the number of current Sudbury residents that are members of this private group? One reason I left the private group was that from the moment I joined my directive was to get a petition or petitions signed by residents of Sudbury to initiate the recall process as well as address the composition of the BOS--change from 3 to 5 members, etc. and you personally made it clear that my goals were not that of the private group called Lavendergate. I also left the group because I did not agree with you suggesting that the gathering at Lavender was in celebration of Bob Haarde not being voted the new Chairman of the BOS. That is pure speculation and harmful. While I am flattered that you have used my own words posted on the private Lavendergate site against me, I wonder about this one point....if transparency and open conversation is so very key to this groups' mission, why, then, is this group "Private"? Anyone can go on facebook and see the number of members but if one does not join the group then not anyone can be privy to the conversations etc. The number of members of this private group is misleading. Can you tell the Patch population and all of those in Sudbury who wish an answer--how many of the private Lavendergate Group members are actually currently residing in Sudbury? Why are you trying to insulate Larry O'Brien?
David Gursky June 29, 2012 at 02:02 PM
[Is a member of Lavendergate group on Facebook, but also strives to be transparent about no longer residing in Sudbury, MA]
Michael Troiano June 29, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Kirsten - Lavendergate is private for one reason, to make sure every comment and contribution is attributed to a person, rather than some anonymous flamethrower. All are welcome, I've never refused a single person requesting access. The mission of the group has never changed... It is to drive transparency and accountability. Having applied pressure to interview the Chief in a BOS meeting (done), we'll get to hear directly from Lavenders owner in the next meeting. That's transparency. As for accountability... We can't pursue a recall for the simple reason that there is no means of doing so in our town charter. Because of that, we are trying to create such a mechanism, and while we're at it we're trying to enlarge the BOS, provide for censure, and potentially term limits. If you support these goals, please join the almost 900 of us who already have (and feel free to check on who the rest of us are and where we live.) If not, I respect that, but please get the facts right in terms of what we're trying to accomplish and how. Thanks.
Kirsten Vandijk June 29, 2012 at 02:44 PM
(Who do you refer to?) Certainly not me. I reside in Sudbury, have since 1995, own a business in Sudbury, will for years to come. Transparency is my middle name, David. I am in the process of purchasing a second home--my retirement home. I will leave the Town of Sudbury having made it a better place to live. I have voted against every override possible. I have been a voice for the preservation of this town. I WAS a member of Lavendergate but did not feel comfortable with the hipocrisy and confused organization. Go at it, David Gursky.
Kirsten Vandijk June 29, 2012 at 02:50 PM
With all due respect, can you please answer the question asked of you, Mr. Troiano? How many of the "nearly 900" of you are current taxpaying residents of the Town of Sudbury? Regarding your mission--it has changed. You stated that the group's mission was to find out what happened at Lavender on May 8 and into May 9. You publically posted that on the Lavendergate page. Many people, residents of Sudbury, had been pushing for what you are now pushing for and before you called it aggressive and not the mission. How many current Sudbury residents are mebers of Lavendergate, Mr. Troiano? Why are you insulating O'Brien?
Michael Troiano June 29, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I don't know how many are current taxpaying residents of Sudbury, Kirsten. I don't know their household incomes, their blood types, or what they had for breakfast this morning. To be honest I don't know why any of that matters. Even more perplexing is you persistent implication that I'm "insulating O'Brien?" From what, exactly? Is it from the threat of being driven from office by Sudbury's non-existent "recall" provision? Please stop implying I have some kind of hidden agenda here. I'm just a guy who lives in Sudbury who got pissed off at our leaders' unwillingness to expose the truth. I created a place where people who felt the same could express that feeling, 900 people are doing just that, and together we're trying to effect change. If you'd prefer another approach, or have another agenda, please feel free to pursue it independently.
Kirsten Vandijk June 29, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Manassas. Mr. Troiano, it is a very pertinent question and if you are the "leader" and "creator" of this group you should know the answer. To explain what seems obvious to me anyway, the number of resident taxpaying citizens that are members of your "private group" could be indicative of the number of actual resident taxpayers who take issue with the current state of Sudbury affairs. Now that you, the leader, have insisted on transparency from the beginning, why are you not eager to answer the simple question posed to you? I am not interested in whether the group eats cornflakes or oatmeal. I simply want to know what the actual percentage of sudbury resident taxpayer members is. It is a reasonable question. Now as for insulating O'Brien, by slowing down the creation of a petition to create a recall provision in order to recall O'Brien critical momentum has been lost. You have said again and again that the only mission for Lavendergate was to get to the facts of May 8 and 9. That happened on Tuesday and your mission became irrelevant as no new information surfaced. So now a new mission has been created. Not new, but now defined by you and therefore now, it seems, a valid course of action. In the meantime you speculate the celebration of Bob Haarde's non-appointment to Chairman. That is where a line of demarcation was crossed. Subjectivity entered and I exited. Seems I am the only one feeling this but as usual I will be vocal about my concerns. I will be quiet now
joanne June 30, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Ok people! We all need to play nice in the sandbox! No name calling ! No bullying! We all live here- we need to work together!!! For those of you tossing sand at Kirsten- I have to say , she is one the kindest most caring , genuine people anyone will ever have the pleasure to meet! I know I am truly honored to call her my friend! She is always willing to give her time and talents to anyone in town! Lets not sink to the level of town officials!
Erich Waible June 30, 2012 at 06:07 AM
Anonymous flamethrower....I like that...fits well here.
Sudbury Family June 30, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Hi Kirsten, I don't believe Facebook allows you to see where someone resides. So to find out how many of the members of that group actually live here would require that he research each one individually.
Michael Troiano June 30, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Exactly. Thank you.
Kirsten Vandijk July 01, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Not necessarily. Mr. Troiano, as leader and creator of the group, could simply ask those members that are currently taxpaying residents of Sudbury to state so and Mr. Troiano will have the answer come to him. Quite simple.
Edward Stark July 01, 2012 at 10:04 PM
People it's a Facebook page! Who cares who joins and where they're from. I can't even believe that we're having this conversation. If somebody doesn't want to be part of the page they should simply un-join it. I do it all the time.
Erich Waible July 02, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Join!

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