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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Issue is Accountability, Not Vendetta

Sudbury resident Michael Troiano says the town deserves answers to the questions surrounding the Lavender incident.

After reading what happened at Lavender and at Union Avenue on the night of May 9, a group of concerned friends and I attended the last Board of Selectmen meeting. Chairman O’Brien scheduled the issue last in the evening, and after a lengthy discussion of the NStar debacle, we finally got to it around 11:30. Mr. O’Brien read a prepared statement acknowledging poor judgment but no legal breach on his part, and left the room. Selectman Drobinsky did not recuse himself, and instead refused to second Selectman Haarde’s repeated requests to dig deeper into the issue of what happened that night. The owner of Lavender had been cited by the police for hosting past their liquor license, and a fellow Sudbury resident, cited for a third OUI, faces legal action for the offense.

Some people seem to feel like that should be the end of it. I am not among them, but I understand their position in the context of the toxic environment that exists in town right now.

I’ve lived here for about six years now, and it seems like right around the time I arrived, something changed. Near as I can tell it traces back to people’s ability to leave anonymous comments on local online news sites like Wicked Local and Patch. Unconstrained by a common interest in keeping the peace with neighbors we might run into at CVS, things started to get ugly. The folks in charge at that time – people of goodwill who had done their best to serve the town – had succeeded in some efforts, and failed in others. Sides formed to focus exclusively on the former, or the latter. Elections heated up the rhetoric. Rocks were thrown. Things got bad, and it’s everybody’s fault.

It’s in that context that I understand why some feel we should just let this Lavender thing go. I hear words like “witch hunt,” “smear campaign,” and “vendetta” attributed to those of us who disagree. And there’s a minority of folks on our side who’ve succumbed to the same closed-minded judgementalism that characterizes a minority of folks on the other side. Dialogue between those extremes is probably pointless at this point. It’s certainly unlikely to yield a productive result for the town we all care about.

The group of us who left the last BOS meeting angry and unsatisfied on Tuesday night created a Facebook group to stay connected to each other, and maintain focus on this issue in the face of those trying to make it go away. We made the group private … not to exclude anyone who wanted to join (all are welcome, we’ve denied no one access,) but to make sure that people took ownership of whatever they had to say. There is no anonymity in the group, and as a result the dialog has been more civil and fact-based than that on Patch over the past week. Our group has swelled to nearly 800 people, been noted in the local media, and dismissed as some kind of social smokescreen by people who don’t understand the medium.

We are not an angry mob. We are neighbors and friends who care about Sudbury. And we are not going away.

I polled the group to ask what it wanted in more specific terms. Collectively, the answer was NOT someone’s head on a spike. It was to get to the bottom of what happened at Lavender, hold the responsible people accountable based on the facts rather than their station in our town, and move on from there in putting this issue behind us.

Did people with power and influence in our town force a local business owner to break the rules, then turn their backs as the police cites him for doing so?

Did these same people, including the man responsible for championing drunk driving awareness with our children, look the other way in allowing a drunk colleague to drive home?

It seems to me these are important questions. The answers will not be black and white, I know. But the final question may be the most important: Has Sudbury developed a political culture characterized by a sense among those in power that the rules don’t apply to them? And doesn’t abandoning this issue now encourage that belief, even if it doesn’t exist today?

What we want – nearly 800 people in a town where 2,600 voted our current Selectmen into power – is an open, fact-driven assessment of what happened that night and in its aftermath. We want to know that no one is above the law in our town. And we want to know that everyone else knows it as well.

Please join us if you feel the same. Most of us there are still willing to listen … we’re just unwilling to sweep this whole thing under the rug, await punishment of the powerless, and move on.

Michael Troiano

342 Lincoln Road

 

Mike Curry June 15, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Well stated Michael. It's not a witch hunt, just a bunch of concerned residents who want some clear honest answers from their elected officials.
Rob June 15, 2012 at 03:44 PM
A Special town meeting needs to be called to compel the town to outline a recall procedure. A vote of no confidence should also be made at this meeting.
John Kelley June 15, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Surely, there should be accountability, but the sense of proportion here is out of whack. Larry is accountable for all the good things he is done in this town as well. One incident—a celebration party at Lavender that went too late and may have been poor judgment—warrants an apology , which he gave, and more answers but not an inquest. There is no reason to think Lavender felt pressure and no reason to assume Beth Rust was visibly intoxicated, as anyone who has spent time in a bar will admit. There is also no evidence that anyone was drinking after the legal time according to the police report.The pack of wolves mentality is just unwarranted. I personally find Bob Haarde standing on a corner holding a sign for someone running against another sitting selectman, not having the good sense to stay off of Fox News, or joining Bob Stein’s kangaroo court behavior not worthy of a selectman but I am not asking him to resign. I would like to have some answers about the behavior of all 3 of the selectman, but more importantly I would like the 3 of them start to behave like adults and start working together to get something positive done in this town.
Rob June 15, 2012 at 03:52 PM
John, good points. Everyone has their opinions on the matter. That is why a recall should be done to see if the majority support it or not.
Paul Fuhrman June 15, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Michael Troiano's letter is superbly written, very thoughtful, well reasoned. One of the problems in this town is the lack of transparency and the unwillingness of many (not all) incumbent leaders to welcome opposing viewpoints without judgment or manipulation. There are just too many examples to cite. It turns off well intentioned citizen volunteers, who may simply disagree with a particular issue or the status quo, from engaging in constructive debate. John Kelley: your criticism of Haarde and Stein is no different in tone or intent than the O'Brien criticism to which you object. At least be consistent. And you are naïve if you believe the owner of Lavender doesn't feel pressure to pay special attention (not to mention provide freebies) to such a group of local leaders.
Christina Granahan June 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM
John, Thank you so much for characterizing what so many of us feel. I also appreciate what Michael said above. It feels like movement away from the animosity, call to judgment, and repellent words of so many. Michael, thank you for putting some distance between you and that group, but it is difficult to tell where the line ends because the Lavendergate FB page is full of commentary demonstrating otherwise. It was not until Michael Schwarz posted something last night that it felt like there was rational, thoughtful input. More has followed since. If this is your official position, it would be great to make that clear because so many are using it as a place to organize with different goals. Just my opinion. Again, thank you, John, for your tough love attitude and clarity. I completely agree. Christina
Kirsten Vandijk June 15, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Hi John, Why is it not "good sense" to answer questions asked of Bob Haarde? Fox News or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, public transparency is one of the issues that the Town Of Sudbury has problems addressing. Selectman Haarde has been exemplary during this entire process and I for one have taken notice that Mr. Haarde is not just a pro-schools advocate but a well-rounded professional with the desire to serve his town.
M Hullinger June 15, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Appearances of impropriety by town officials is not something some people are simply willing to ignore. One version is this is a minor issue of the “social proclivity” of Selectman O’Brien resulting in a simple 1 am closing hour violation by Lavender’s, which was cited by police. Case closed. Other versions include concerns about Selectmen who approve liquor licenses showing up an hour after the public closing time and, with other Town officials, getting served for an unknown length of time. One Town official leaves Lavenders, has an accident, and is cited for OUI. A Police report stated the owner appeared nervous and there was enough time to clear the premises of drinks before the police gained entry. Conflicting information from public officials and conflicting information about conditions under which Lavenders may serve alcohol after midnight. A selectman reading a prepared statement that includes the words “on advice of legal counsel” and leaving a public meeting. A strong effort by Town officials to limit or prevent open discussion and full disclosure about the events of May 8 and the related concerns of many citizens. While some view these and related events as minor or overblown, this should not prevent others with deeper concerns about the short and longer term consequences of these appearances of impropriety from finding out what happened and developing reasoned proposals to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen in the future.
Bryan S June 16, 2012 at 01:15 AM
John - You raise an interesting point about a selectman standing on the corner holding signs for opposition candidates. I can understand your discomfort. At some point, involvement by elected officials in the elections adds to the divisiveness of the elections. If you dislike sign holding, my guess is you would also oppose: School committee members sending emails attacking candidates as anti-school and not trustworthy: http://sudburyvision.ning.com/profiles/blogs/email-1-the-sps-committee Selectmen forwarding emails from "town elders" attacking candidates trust worthiness and advocating that candidates no longer running for office are better choices than those still in the race. Or school committee members telling their fellow parents that candidates would drastically cut budgets even though there was no mention of this during the election. http://sudburyvision.ning.com/profiles/blogs/email-3-the-selectman Having elected officials disengage from our election process would go a long way to improving town politics. Bryan PS - There is no John Kelley in Sudbury that I can find. Is this your real name? If not, that is fine. If so, ignore the following. But I think it preferable that if you chose to use a pseudonym, use one that is obviously not a real name. Otherwise you appear to take the more difficult path of standing behind your comments personally, when in fact you are not.
John Kelley June 16, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Bryan, I obviously did not make my point clearly. Much of the discussion around Lavender was about what is appropriate and perception. My point about Bob Haarde and the sign is that I feel it is not appropriate for Bob Haarde to be holding a sign against someone on the same elected board and someone you have to work with on a weekly basis. It makes it impossible for the work of he committee to get done in a cohesive manner and in this case probably was a reason Bob didn’t get elected board chair because he was so blatant about his unwillingness to work with Larry. I would have been equally concerned, for example, if Eric Matthews was running and sitting members of the LS School Committee were holding signs against him. Even though I agree that asking people to vote for someone no longer running is offensive, the examples you site do not relate to the point I was trying to make. It is just something that bothers me and may not be of concern to others.
Kirsten Vandijk June 16, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Hi John, I would like to suggest that Freedom of Speech, in this case as expressed by an individual's right to hold a sign in support of a candidate running for elected office, should bear no interference with a person's ability to work with a person who holds an opposing view. When Bob Haarde ran for and was eventually elected Selectman, he did so knowingly and was and still is a voice for Sudbury that may not always ring the "Unanimously Voted" bell when decisions are being discussed. This is a good thing. It is very concerning to see unanimous vote after unanimous vote by certain town boards and committees. This suggests that the voting group may be unidirectional in it's approach and not considering all the avenues for successful implementation of goals. The expression "still waters are not safe to drink" comes to mind quite clearly. Differing opinions are indicative of a well-rounded group and one that more broadly represents the general citizen base. I for one and comforted when votes are not unanimous but made to feel uncomfortable when a three member board has the power it has in this town. If the Town of Sudbury focused energy on creating a 5 member Board of Selectmen then perhaps part of the problem would be addressed.
ron darden June 16, 2012 at 02:47 PM
John, Let's see if i have this right. You find it appropriate or irrelevant that in the heat of an election Larry OBrien forwards an email to Town voters that disparages another candidate with proven falsehoods, yet condemn another Selectman holding a sign for an alternate candidate? Yikes, I have to question your partisanship, not to mention your judgment
Thrice Rusty June 16, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I recall when Larry O'Brien forwarded the infamous "3 G's and a K" e-mail around town and did not recuse himself as being a Selectman. I also recall Larry O'Brien holding signs for John Drobinski last year. So what if Mike Hullinger had won? Are you saying that Mike may have held a grudge against Larry? I doubt it. This is America, our greatest rights are our freedom's particularly our freedom of speech. Bob Haarde holding a sign for another candidate is not a violation of any sort. Now not being able to follow the very liquor laws that you are tasked with governing, that's a violation. Those going after Bob Haarde here are really grasping for straws. As far as I can see Bob Haarde as our Selectman has never violated any sort of rules either ethically or legally.
SkimThreePercent June 17, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Who the heck is Eric Mathhews? Haarde held the sign himself, DroBrien uses their proxities (KDroopinen) to carry their water and hold their signs. It's the difference between transparency and your Chicago style dirty politics Mr. Ryan, err I meant to say Mr. Kelley, sorry, my bad. Good vs. Evil, good loses ever time. But then, Rush crashes, the Cops get caught with their pants done. I have ZERO Sympathy for the Devil, please to meet you, won't you guess my name.
Bryan S June 18, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Anonymous John(AJ) If you look at this years patch coverage, you will see current officials holding signs for their favorite candidates. But let's go down this path. I agree with you. The elected officials should stay out of the races. No signing holding, no emailing, no letters to the editor. Can you convince the Lavender Party to agree to this pledge? Doubtful. It is their connections to the school committees, PTOs, and many of the town boards that provides them with a ready made support base and organizational structure. This is why it is so difficult to unseat an incumbent. Second point- Haarde didn't get the chairmanship because he held a sign? He has done much "worse" to not get the chairmanship: * At the 9/7/2010 BOS meeting he wanted to look into the town manager contracts that were signed last minute before the election- wrong question to ask * At the Johnson Farm 40B meeting he objected to Larry sending a "neutral" letter to Mass Housing - wrong to expose Larry as pro-40B * At BOS goal setting meetings he objected to not having "solving the budget issues" as a goal for the BOS - wrong to try to solve a major town issue Give the guy some credit. He asks uncomfortable questions. So much so, that even after he voted for others to be chair, they didn't return the favor. A little sign holding is nothing.

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