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In The Arena

The wheels of justice

Greenfield mayor unhappy with pace

Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin has never been known for being subtle when something is bothering him. And it’s pretty apparent that His Honor has had his fill of the somewhat deliberative pace of our legal system.

In an appearance this week on WHAI’s “Valley Morning Show” with Jay Fidanza, Martin discussed recent legal actions the town is involved in, including two separate actions connected to internal investigations within the Greenfield Police Department — issues the mayor would clearly like to see go away as quickly as possible.

“You defend yourself against a horrible allegation or on principle, but at some point you have to look at the question and say, ‘geez, this is going to cost me an extra $50,000, maybe I can get rid of it being paying $15,000 or $20,000,’” Martin said. “So that becomes part of the formula and it’s unfortunate, but that’s how this process works.”

An interesting perspective, given that the town has conducted a nearly five-year legal challenge to former police officer Dennis Menard’s claim that Greenfield owes him $35,000 in back pay. That case has already cost the town $15,000 in legal fees, a number that will only climb if the town appeals the latest appellate decision to the state Supreme Judicial Court, a case that, as a bonus, could establish a new legal precedent for how towns are forced to compensate back-pay claims.

Martin never addressed the Menard case directly, choosing instead to focus on judicial inaction on the appeal of the big-box retail project.

“We have a developer with a legitimate special permit who can’t do any construction, and we’re still waiting for some judge to make a decision four months later,” Martin said.

“This legal system needs to get up to speed with real time, so it’s not dragging things out,” Martin said, adding that he’ll probably “get slapped down for talking about the legal system.”

Maybe, but I’m sure he’ll also get a few pats on the back for saying what some of his constituents have been thinking for a long time.

Feels like home

If the turnout at his first Greenfield fundraiser is any indication, 2nd Berkshire state Rep. Paul Mark is already a major player on the Franklin County political scene.

“I’m like an expectant father,” Mark said before a standing-room-only crowd at the Greenfield Grille on Monday. “I’m just really gratified and honored that so many people chose to come out.”

Papa Paul should be pretty psyched, not just by the size of the crowd but the faces in it, with every color of Greenfield’s Democratic political rainbow represented. There were old-guard partly loyalists, new-blood progressives, community organizers and rank-and-file union members, and even some A-list politicians, among them Congressman Jim McGovern, who, like Mark, hasn’t yet been elected to represent Greenfield, but has already built a pretty good following here.

“I love this area,” McGovern said. “The people here are fantastic, and they really care about their community, and I’m looking forward to representing them in the Congress.”

The best part of the night was watching McGovern move through the crowd being trailed by Democratic operative Patty Marcus, who stuck as close to McGovern as she did to Elizabeth Warren during the U.S. Senate hopeful’s fundraising visits to town. McGovern said he recognizes, as does Mark, that, reputation notwithstanding, he’s still a relative unknown in this area.

“I know I have to prove myself to people out here, which is why I keep coming back,” McGovern said. “But I think I’m going to be a pretty good congressman for the people of the Greenfield.”

Time will tell.

Crossing lines

While Mark wows his new constituents in Greenfield, the town’s current state representative, Denise Andrews, is dealing with a few party defectors as she tries to stave off a strong challenge from Athol Republican Susannah Whipps Lee.

Former Athol Democratic Town Committee Chairman William J. Caldwell has resigned from that board and has thrown his support behind Lee, whom he feels is a better choice than Andrews to represent the reconfigured 2nd District.

“I’ve known Susannah for most of my life, and I think she will do a good job representing us,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell was chair of the committee in 2010, when long-time member and former Democratic state rep. candidate Lee Chauvette stepped down for similar reasons. Chauvette is firmly in the Lee camp, and has been hammering Andrews on Facebook ever since the “cocainegate” story broke.

Caldwell said at least four other members have also resigned recently, although he would not disclose their names and did not know if those resignations were related to the Andrews’ candidacy.

“I’ve been in politics since I was five or six, when I used to hold signs for my uncle (former Athol Selectman) Joe Maga,” Caldwell, now 22, said. “I still believe in the Democratic Party and its principles, but I think Susie is the better candidate.”

I can’t wait to see how many other people feel that way on Nov. 6.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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