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Hawley officials explain resignations

Recorder/Paul Franz
Lisa Turner welcomes a voter to the Hawley Town Office on Tuesday, hours before she resigned.

Recorder/Paul Franz Lisa Turner welcomes a voter to the Hawley Town Office on Tuesday, hours before she resigned.

HAWLEY — With its annual election roughly six weeks away, Hawley is without a town clerk, now that Lisa Turner has resigned.

Turner stunned a group in Hawley Tuesday night by announcing her resignation after swearing in newly elected Selectman John Sears and new Assessor Rick Kean after a special election.

Immediately after her resignation, selectman’s candidate Hussain Hamdan also read his letter of resignation from the Hawlemont Regional School Committee.

When asked why she quit, Turner replied, “It was shocking to me that John Sears was elected.”

Turner said she believes Sears “had a heavy hand in bringing the fine upon the town” over the damages done to the Chickley River during an emergency repair, after Tropical Storm Irene.

Turner said Sears had led a petition drive to stop the emergency repair work that was later determined to be in violation of a state work permit and the state Wetlands Act. Turner said Sears called the repair “irresponsible” and had written to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s regional director about the river work.

“He said, during a selectmen’s meeting, that the town needed to be punished for what they did to fix the river,” Turner added.

When asked to comment, Sears said he led the petition drive to get selectmen to stop ongoing work on the Chickley River and get more expert help. He denied that he ever said the town should be punished. “In fact, I wrote letters to DEP and to our state representatives, toward the end of negotiations, asking them not to fine the town. I’ve always said what the town did in the river was well-intentioned, but it was the wrong way to do it.”

“I think we were acting as concerned citizens. It was not an unreasonable step to take.”

“I was disappointed that Lisa resigned,” he said. “I thought she had acted very professionally in her position. I’m very sorry she resigned. I felt I could work with her.”

The issue of whether the repair work was appropriate has divided many people in town in recent months, especially as the taxpayers will now have to foot a heavy cost to undo the “repairs.”

Many residents have been angry with those whom they believe had complained about zealous river work. Other residents have been angry with town officials for allowing such extensive work. But people on both sides of the issue will have to share in the town’s cost to restore the river — a cost of between $184,000 and $259,000.

“My resignation is effective with the swearing-in of John Sears as selectman,” said Turner. “I knew, as soon as the votes were tallied, that I could no longer do damage to myself by working with John Sears ... I could have worked with either of the other two candidates,” she continued, referring to Hamdan and to Tax Collector/Town Accountant Charles Stetson. “I would have felt that we had some hope of healing the town.”

Turner said she took the town clerk job “simply because no one else wanted it. To me, it is not worth the money in any way. I feel like I am deserting the residents who elected me and am struggling with that. Most of them have been very nice and I will always consider myself lucky to have been able to get to know them better and help them out.”

In an email to The Recorder, Hamdan explained that he had been appointed to the School Committee seat in 2011 and had hoped to leave after helping to develop a budget proposal and completing negotiations with Rowe for sharing the Hawlemont school building.

“The election did play a role in my decision, but not because I lost or John Sears won. ... I was disillusioned, however, by what I perceived to be a great deal of negative campaigning on the part of some individuals who were supporting Mr. Sears’ bid for office,” he wrote. “I do not suspect that John was personally involved in this, but, in the course of talking to other people, I heard some very negative, and frankly untrue things that were said about me and my other opponent, Charlie Stetson.”

“I have become very disappointed lately with the politics within Hawley,” he said. “Everybody used to get along with one another, even when they disagreed. Recently, though, there has been more mud-slinging and animosity than I care to mention. I have had friends on both sides of the river controversy and resulting disagreements within our town, and so it is even more shocking to me that people have come to treat one another with such contempt and disrespect. ... After everything that has happened, I want a break from politics.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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