Allis: Admonishment was political move




Recorder Staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

GREENFIELD — The Town Council president says a recent public admonishment by the mayor and police chief was a calculated move to discredit council leadership before the election, with the goal of generating support for candidates that will be less likely to question their budgets or spending.

The allegation, included in a four-page response written by Town Council President Brickett Allis, comes after Mayor William Martin and Police Chief Robert Haigh condemned Allis’ behavior after he allegedly went on a “profanity-laced tirade” against Haigh after receiving a parking ticket he felt was unfair.

In his response to Martin and Haigh, Allis wrote that though his choice of words and the volume at which he expressed them to Haigh were inappropriate, his poor handling of the situation was not malicious and instead stemmed from his continued frustration with parking issues in town. Allis said that Martin’s and Haigh’s responses to the situation were “malicious, calculated, manipulative, mean and repugnant.”

Allis recently returned to Greenfield after spending several days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Baystate Medical Center with his newborn daughter.

“You both chose to leak these letters to the press without checking to see that they were sent to me, or better yet, simply sending them to me yourselves, which you could have done very easily as you are both aware of my email address; you have used it many times,” Allis wrote. “More shocking, and equally as repugnant, is your decision to leak them on a Friday afternoon with full knowledge that I was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Baystate Children’s Hospital watching our medical team try to save my daughter. Doing so only goes to show both of you seemingly lack any sense of empathy or compassion and have a blatant disregard for simple human decency.”

When reached by phone Friday, Haigh said his original letter to Allis was given to the Town Clerk’s office, which did not send it out until the following week. The mayor previously said the same happened with his letter to Allis.

“It wasn’t an intentional hold on it, that’s for sure,” Haigh said.

He also noted that he did not send a copy of his letter to the media. The Recorder obtained a copy of Haigh’s letter through a public records request.

With regard to the timing of his letter, the police chief said he separates personal from professional.

“I won’t make any comment at all on someone’s personal situation, my letter was specific to that incident and my feeling that this has been going on for some time for him with me,” Haigh said.

Martin said he was not aware of Allis’ situation when his letter was sent to the media.

“I obviously did not know about his family situation. Even though some people might think everyone knows everything, it is not the case,” Martin said. “I wish his family well. I wish them to be healthy in all the recuperation that is required.”

Martin said he did not wish to engage further, noting that any concerns about parking should be brought to the Mayor’s Office by the council president — not to department heads.

In his response, Allis also wrote that the town’s parking enforcement officers have been “weaponized” to target and intimidate those with whom Martin or Haigh disagree.

For example, Allis wrote that the mayor visited Precinct 9 Town Councilor Daniel Leonovich’s auto repair shop on Deerfield Street before this year’s council budget vote to ask him not to support a 1 percent overall cut at the council meeting. The day after the council voted to cut the budget, Allis wrote that Leonovich received the first of what would be 12 tickets at his business.

“I must say that reeks of intimidation and targeting,” Allis wrote.

Haigh said there were no political motives behind his response, and his parking enforcement officers have never been told to target anyone specifically.

“We will send people to certain areas if there are issues, but I didn’t know there was an issue on Deerfield Street,” Haigh said. “I went down and spoke with Councilor Leonovich in person on a couple of occasions, but as far as me sending someone down there, absolutely not.”

He said Allis’ use of the word “weaponized” is insulting to the parking enforcement officers.

But Allis contends there is a serious underlying issue with parking enforcement in Greenfield.

In his letter, Allis alleges that the mayor has instructed parking enforcement officers to selectively ticket in certain locations in town in direct contradiction of town ordinances.

For example, he said after a week of seeing construction vehicles parked on Bank Row in posted “no parking” areas in front of a fire hydrant, Allis attempted to address the issue by bringing it to the Police Department. He wrote that the problem continued over the next month after repeated correspondence between himself and town departments, including the Police and Fire departments.

However, Haigh said every time he heard a complaint, either he or another officer went to check on the situation. He said he has also asked officers to remind construction workers not the block the hydrant.

“I personally asked them to just go down and remind them today. I know there’s been concerns about the parking down there. They are revitalizing a building so vehicles come and go,” Haigh said.

In his original letter, Haigh wrote that Allis threatened to cut funding for parking enforcement during their recent confrontation.

Allis responded that he never threatened to cut funding for the department based on any action, including getting a ticket.

“Any mention of cutting the department is based solely on the very real issues I have outlined in this letter,” Allis wrote.

He added that the parking enforcement officers are “woefully undertrained and incapable of doing their jobs efficiently,” based on a lack of training and supervision, coupled with incessant turnover, not due to their abilities or mental capacities.

Haigh said although the job is difficult, he doesn’t believe there is any problem with his parking enforcement officers.

“There is constant turnover; it’s a tough job, it really is. It’s tough to do a job that you know your job is to fine people, that can be very hard for people to do, and they do the best they can, and they do it without malice,” he said. “With all of this going on, I still have zero problem with Council Allis as a person. I have no problem with (Council Vice President Isaac) Mass as a person. This is specifically business-oriented and taking care of the folks that work for me.”