Orange Selectboard to go on as 4, declining to hold special election

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ORANGE — In the wake of Richard Sheridan’s abrupt resignation, the Selectboard has decided to continue as a four-person body.

Sheridan’s resigned from the Selectboard on May 2. He had served four terms, and was most recently chairman.

The board will now technically function as a five-person board with one vacancy until the regularly scheduled election in March 2019, when Sheridan’s term was set to expire. The Selectboard voted against holding a special election to fill Sheridan’s seat.

Selectboard members Ryan Mailloux, Jane Peirce, James Cornwell and Tom Smith said they are confident in the current iteration of the board to get things done smoothly, following a period of tumult regarding the selection of a new town administrator.

Sheridan was the only Selectboard member to vote against Acting Town Administrator Gabriele Voelker becoming the new town administrator on April 25.


Also Wednesday evening, the Selectboard reorganized itself to adjust to Sheridan’s absence. Mailloux, previously vice chairman, will serve as chairman, Cornwell will keep his post as clerk and Peirce be vice chairwoman. Smith supported Peirce’s appointment as vice chairwoman.

Sheridan resigned after at least four Selectboard meetings focused on the hiring of a new town administrator. The meetings were tempestuous, with accusations aired — and even tears shed — during that time period.

After a nearly year-long search for finalists for the town administrator position, Police Chief Craig Lundgren, also chairman of the Town Administrator Search Committee, presented the resumes of the chosen three to the Selectboard last month. The search committee screened the 22 applicants for the job before selecting the three. Some members of the Selectboard were dissatisfied with the results of this process.

Mailloux, upon looking at the names of the three finalists, noticed Voelker, who has served as acting town manager for roughly a year, was absent among the finalists. He called Voelker’s exclusion a “slap in the face,” given that she had proved her ability and dedication to Orange, while the others hadn’t. Mailloux also said excluding Voelker lacked integrity, because she had a higher level of education than at least two of the three candidates.

He questioned “behind the scenes” talks as having led to Voelker’s exclusion. Peirce agreed with Mailloux, and said Voelker should be interviewed as a finalist, at least as a common courtesy, given the amount of time she has dedicated to the position during its vacancy.

But Sheridan took issue with Mailloux’s and Peirce’s positions, and filed complaints with the State Ethics Commission against them, alleging favoritism toward Voelker had been shown.

When Voelker was selected to be offered the job, Sheridan resigned.

Sheridan showed up in person to the Selectboard meeting Wednesday to suggest — during the public comments section — that the town hold a special election to replace him, to apologize for putting the town in a difficult position and to give some cryptic answers as to why he resigned.

Sheridan mentioned “the direction the board is going in and the things that I’m privy to that the public is not” as reasons for his resignation.

“I couldn’t sit on the board and be a good board member if the only reason I was sitting there was seeing if I could blindside somebody on something they did,” he said.

Again, Sheridan said there were things the public didn’t know that led to his resignation, and said some of those things happened during the closed executive session before the May 2 meeting when he resigned.

“(The executive session) was the dot at the end of the sentence,” Sheridan said.

“I’m sorry I put the town into this mess, but it is what it is,” he added.

The Selectboard chose not to accept his advice to hold a special election to replace him, and some took offense to his characterization of the board as not playing by the rules.

“I just want to say on the record how frustrated I am with the continuous implication that we’re all up to something,” Peirce said.

Peirce said she never heard from the State Ethics Commission, to whom Sheridan had reported her, and added, “I’m not in jail yet.”

Sheridan questioned whether Peirce was being truthful, and said no one would know whether or not she had indeed heard from the ethics commission.

“Yeah, I could be lying about that,” Peirce retorted.

“That’s just funny,” added Mailloux. “I’m quite frustrated myself.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.