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Haarde and Simon Engage in Contentious Debate as BOS Selects New Chairman

Selectman Len Simon said colleague Bob Haarde has "poisoned the well" while Haarde accused Simon of character assassination.

Len Simon said he does not believe Bob Haarde is fit for chairman. (Matt Schooley Photo)
Len Simon said he does not believe Bob Haarde is fit for chairman. (Matt Schooley Photo)

Tempers flared on Tuesday night at the end of the Board of Selectmen meeting as members chose Chuck Woodard as their next chairman during the final agenda item on the evening.

In particular, selectmen Bob Haarde and Len Simon went toe to toe when it came time for Simon to explain why he would not be voting for Haarde as chairman.

The conversation began as Pat Brown nominated Haarde, and he seconded her nomination. Larry O’Brien then nominated Woodard, which was seconded by Simon.

Discussion as to why started innocently enough. Brown said Haarde has the greatest level of experience for the role and has served four years without being chairman. During his turn to speak, O’Brien countered by saying that he believes Woodard has shown the ability to work with town staff, and added that there have been occasions when he does not believe Haarde has shown the same characteristics.

While advocating for himself, Haarde said he believes his opinion is oftentimes shut down. He admitted that he has zero relationship with the Town Manager, but claimed he possessed the ability to make that change and lead by example for residents.

Haarde said Woodard with just one year experience would be the wrong choice for the chairman position.

“I think you’ve been shooting from the hip,” said Haarde of Woodard. “I’m a little disappointed in the approach you took with your role this year. You had a lot of power, and you exploited that … You were very active. But you were not inclusive. You ran with things, and you didn’t ask for help.”

The real fireworks for the evening began after Simon’s opening remarks, which he began by saying why he does not believe Haarde should hold the chairman position.

“I think Bob’s comments express why he is not qualified to be the Board of Selectmen chair,” said Simon. “His comments of blaming everyone else but himself are why I don’t have confidence in his ability to lead the Board of Selectmen. He attempted to shift blame saying others are at fault for things he thought should have been done.”

During his comments, Haarde several times used the expression that there are repressed feelings in Sudbury. This was something Simon disagreed with.

“As far as repressed feelings, the Board of Selectmen is not a therapy session. It is a working board dealing with issues for the town,” said Simon.

Simon accused Haarde of poor conduct while on the board. Simon said Haarde confronted former chairman John Drobinski at the Transfer Station, getting into a “yelling and screaming” match while each was campaigning. He also said that Haarde’s critical performance review of the Town Manager showed that Haarde would be incapable of putting differences aside to work with her.

Simon continued his argument against Haarde for chairman, but Haarde interjected during the accusation about the incident at the Transfer Station.

“Enough is enough. This is ridiculous. This gentleman does not know what he was talking about. He was not there,” said Haarde. “If you want to vote against me, go ahead and vote. But I have heard enough of this guy right here. … This is character assassination.”

Discussion remained contentious, with Haarde and Simon each continuing to speak.

“No one has poisoned the well in this town to the extent that you have,” said Simon, which elicited groans from some in attendance.

Eventually Woodard called for a vote. Brown and Haaarde voted for Haarde as chairman while O’Brien and Simon voted for Woodard as chairman. Woodard was the deciding vote, and he voted for himself and became the next chairman.

No vice chairman was determined at the meeting, however, as O’Brien suggested the board table the discussion because of the contentious nature of the evening.

Check back later Wednesday for more from Tuesday night's Board of Selectmen meeting.

Pamela Hilton May 21, 2014 at 11:37 PM
This is the second time I have commented about his issue. The leadership in Sudbury need a workshop on how to address each other with civility. This is a community where we pay some of the highest taxes in the Commonwealth. We have very good schools. Why do we have this level of incivility in the leadership?
Spanky Simian May 22, 2014 at 07:54 AM
Contentious debate is not uncivilized. It is a cornerstone of our democracy. If our leaders, (albeit only town level leaders) are arguing, that is terrific. That means they are doing their job and both sides of a matter are being represented._______Kudos to you local town selectmen for fighting, this is how to engage the public. The winning side will be the one that can make the more reasoned position.
john baranowsky May 22, 2014 at 08:01 AM
You answered your own question quote "we pay some of the highest taxes in the Commonwealth". The great divide pivots on this and the associated causation. Tax and spend v. fiscal constraint. Ancillary to this is staff v. "we the people" with a 3/2 split in favor of the former.
David May 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM
Pamela, great idea. Leadership training is common in the corporate and non-profit world and clearly needed by the BOS. It is tiresome to listen to all the fingerpointing and the accusations that anyone you don't agree with is "not transparent, "uncivil", "fiscally irresponsible","vile" etc. etc. I hope the BOS takes your suggestion seriously, identifies a program to attend, and moves beyond the toxic environment.
Concerned Sudbury Parent May 22, 2014 at 12:39 PM
Bob Haarde - I can't thank you enough for standing tall through this unbelievably inappropriate, unethical, and mean-spirited assault on you by Mssrs. O'Brien, Simon, and Woodard. I would lose all hope for Sudbury if you resigned. Please hang in there until the next election when O'Brien and Woodard will both be shown the door. Only then can we hope to repair the damage these guys have done to the town. Perhaps Bob Stein and Mike Troiano will run for selectman!

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