Fellow officials puzzled by Mass’s actions

  • Candidates and citizens talk at a meet-and-greet, hosted by the League of Women of Greenfield, at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, after a last minute change from the town's library. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • Candidates and citizens talk at a meet-and-greet, hosted by the League of Women of Greenfield, at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, after a last minute change from the town's library. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

Recorder Staff
Friday, October 13, 2017

GREENFIELD — While more than a hundred comers-and-goers passed through Thursday night’s candidate meet-and-greet at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, the hectic hours that led up to the event were mostly checked at the door.

No candidate or member of League of Women Voters of Franklin County, which was hosting the event to kickoff the election season, made a formal announcement to the crowd about what had happened. Instead the move that unfolded in the 24 hours before the start of the event to change the location from the library down the block to the arts center went mostly under the table as people mingled through the night.

But when asked specifically about the last minute switch out of the library — brought on Wednesday by Town Council Vice President Isaac Mass and then playing out over comment sections of Facebook in the late hours of the evening — some of those involved had strong comments for the vice president.

“It’s disgusting what Isaac Mass did,” said Bill Benson, trustee to the Greenfield Public Library, while at the event Thursday night. “He used false arguments with mild threats and unfortunately people backed down.”

Benson continued, calling Mass an “underminer,” and speaking to what he said was the vice president’s tendency to use a “last minute tactic.”

“He should be ashamed of his tactics,” Benson said.

The event at the library was canceled Wednesday, the day before it was suppose to go on, after Mass said it was a conflict of interest. He said the nonprofit Friends of the Greenfield Public Library is not allowed to engage in political activity. A representative from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance said there was no potential violation to hold the event at the town’s public library.

Penny Ricketts and Ashli Stempel, current town councilors campaigning for the November election, spoke to their displeasure with how things played out Wednesday night.

“I feel like it was a disservice,” Ricketts said about the move by Mass. “I’m a little embarrassed because I’m a councilor too. We can work out problems better than this.”

She said she thought in a community this size, Mass should have gone to the library and spoke to them directly if he thought this was a problem.

Many candidates asked Thursday night why Mass raised this issue with the location the night before the event, instead of in the weeks leading up to it.

“When I heard about this, the first thing I did was, I started googling politics and library,” Ricketts said. “I knew there was something odd to the whole thing.”

Stempel highlighted the success of the event, despite the odds. She thought with the last-minute change only a couple of dozen would show up, but instead, the number grew close to 150, Hawks and Reed management estimated.

The two town councilors helped to organize a place for the event to be held instead. On top of Hawks and Reed, they said Taylor’s Tavern, the Guiding Center Grange and the All Souls Church on Main Street all volunteered to host the event instead.

“Our mission is to be a community center first and foremost and host events that will enrich our community,” Hawks and Reed manager Jeremy Goldsher said. “This is the future of Greenfield in one space.”

And while Stempel did point to how the event nonetheless went on, she said it was a “weird roadblock” for Mass to put up to cause the event to move last minute.

Stempel said Mass typically tells council members at meetings that they need to use their community space more often, and that this could have been the “one opportunity to let the library shine.”

“It’s really too far. It’s too sad,” Stempel said about Mass and the change in locations. “This is exactly what you’re asking all the time, so it’s contradicting.”

Greenfield resident Suzanne Patnaude, co-chairwoman of the voters services committee for the Franklin County League of Women Voters, said the library was not allowed to put up a notice that the venue had been changed. So if people walked up to the library for the meet-and-greet, there would be no information to tell them it had moved down the street.

Patnaude, a practicing lawyer, said “I believe that Mr. Mass overstepped his bounds … There’s nothing illegal or inappropriate about an event at a library.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com