Ashfield Selectboard member resigns
ASHFIELD — Selectboard member Paullette Leukhardt, who recently filed Open Meeting Law violation complaints against her own board, has handed in her letter of resignation. It takes effect May 1 — two days before her term was set to expire.
In a four-page letter, Leukhardt said fellow board members’ “flagrant disregard and open refusal to comply with state law; their continuous hostility and attacks on town citizens ... and their unfounded personal attacks and baseless accusations toward me make it untenable for me to stay through annual town meeting.”
In her letter, Leukhardt says the Attorney General’s Office found the board has violated Open Meeting Law in a few of the meeting minute complaints that were submitted by four residents who have raised complaints about the Ashfield House apartment complex.
“I have also repeatedly brought to the board’s attention the lack of detail and sufficient specificity in the minutes, missing documents, insufficient agendas, and ... missing minutes of numerous meetings,” said Leukhardt in the letter. “At each turn, this small group of citizens and I have been met with open hostility and disregard.”
Leukhardt said that to force the Selectboard’s compliance with Open Meeting Law and to force the town’s Board of Health to address public safety issues at the Ashfield House, “citizens filed public records requests.”
“Many times these citizens had to file repeated requests for the same documents,” she wrote. “This board responded by instigating, fueling the flames and sanctioning verbal attacks against these citizens. Most notably, at the special town meeting on March 13, 2013, I watched as the (other board members) vilified these few citizens and blamed them for increased legal fees and for the Town Hall staff’s inability to respond in a timely manner.”
At that meeting, voters approved adding another $12,000 to the town’s legal fees, to address the multitude of complaints from four town residents, mostly dealing with the rent-subsidized Ashfield House apartment. They also agreed to spend another $3,000 to increase part-time town employees’ hours, so that they could have more time to respond to public record requests and still get their other duties done.
In August, Selectboard members Ron Coler and Thomas Carter said they considered the mounting public record requests and Open Meeting Law complaints a form of harassment. Coler also accused Leukhardt of being in “conflict of interest” in Ashfield House issues, because some of the others who filed complaints had been seen riding in her car.
“ALL citizens ... deserve a board who will listen to them and work to help them,” said Leukhardt. “At whatever cost to myself personally, I hope those who needed my help received it and that in any small way I served all the people of Ashfield.”
Over the years of dealing with complaints, a town Health Agent and former Selectboard member quit, citing frustration in dealing with the unresolved Ashfield House complaints.
Leukhardt was an unchallenged candidate when she was elected to her first term in 2011. At the town meeting caucus in March, Leukhardt was nominated for re-election but withdrew her name from consideration. Last month, Leukhardt filed four open meeting law complaints against the Selectboard. She accuses the board of failing to take corrective actions recommended by the AG’s office, for having missing meeting minutes and for inadequately listing agenda topics.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 277