Northfield Selectboard hopes to move past trespassing allegations

  • Northfield town seal. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Friday, December 15, 2017

NORTHFIELD — The Selectboard hopes to move forward following complaints that two town employees and a resident trespassed at the Mitchell gravel pit off Mount Hermon Station Road on Nov. 20.

Attorney Kevin Parsons, representing Mitchell Aggregate LLC, came before the board this week, after initially bringing the matter to its attention during a Nov. 28 meeting. Parsons claimed Selectwoman Julia Blyth, Town Administrator Willie Morales and resident Jennifer Tufts trespassed on his client’s property, accompanied by Building Inspector James Hawkins.

While two Selectboard members indicate a willingness to reach an understanding over the alleged incident, Parsons was more direct in what he thought should happen.

Parsons asked that Blyth, who wasn’t at the meeting this past Tuesday, “step up to the plate,” suggesting she have a conversation with his client Robert Mitchell Jr., owner of Mitchell Aggregate LLC, or resign from the Selectboard.

Parsons said “it’s up to her” how the two sides move forward, whether that means an ethics complaint, a criminal complaint or litigation.

In Blyth’s absence Tuesday, Selectman Jack Spanbauer acknowledged wrongdoing on Blyth’s part.

“I don’t think enough thought went into this,” he said. “I feel it was a mistake in judgment by her. I think if she had to do it over, she wouldn’t do it again.”

Spanbauer hoped both sides could move past the incident, but stated Parsons, in asking for a conversation between Blyth and Mitchell, or for Blyth’s resignation, was asking for personal decisions from Blyth.

“We want to work with Rob,” Spanbauer said. “I’d hate to see an isolated incident by a neophyte (selectwoman) ruin a relationship we’ve developed over 10 years.”

Spanbauer said Blyth has been on the board for about a year and a half.

Parsons and Mitchell emphasized their frustration over Blyth not attending the Tuesday meeting. She did not return calls from the Recorder since the meeting.

“She should be here to defend herself,” Mitchell said.

“She’s part of the board, and the board is addressing this,” Spanbauer replied.

Spanbauer assured Parsons and Mitchell “we’re not going to go down this road again,” but said the town would fight any civil action against it.

A brief history

At the Nov. 28 meeting, Parsons explained that Northfield entered into an agreement with Mitchell in 2008, outlining terms and conditions for operating the gravel pit. But on Aug. 1, Parsons said the Greater Northfield Watershed Association — of which Tufts is on the board of directors — wrote a letter to the Selectboard “setting forth some issues they had in regards to my client’s operations,” and seeking investigation.

The letter outlined concerns that property inspections and well monitoring reports weren’t being issued regularly, or in accordance with the 2008 agreement. The association also mentioned the June fire involving roughly 1,500 railroad ties, worrying that more railroad ties might be discarded there.

On Aug. 29, Parsons continued, Morales wrote a letter asking Hawkins — who is responsible for enforcing zoning regulations — to investigate. Parsons claimed Hawkins met with Mitchell without indicating any problems.

Parsons also claimed Blyth, Morales, Hawkins and Tufts entered the property unannounced on Nov. 20 for unclear purposes. Parsons spoke of the “ethical considerations” involved in bringing Tufts, “someone who has been a perennial complainer against my client’s business for more than 10 years.” He also alleged Blyth intended “to obviously support (the Greater Northfield Watershed Association’s) cause.” Blyth was formerly on their board of directors.