LtE: Investigating Our Politics

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Dear Select Board and Neighbors,

The division in today’s politics is real, both nationally and here in Reading. Ironically, if you get inside the political “bubble,” you learn that the people who separate themselves into groups have much more in common than what divides them. However, when power or control is at stake, anything goes.

I took our need to hire a new Town Manager seriously. I spent a significant amount of time assessing our options. My goal was to arrive at a unanimous vote among our closely divided Board. (Regrettably, by speaking individually with Mark Dockser, and then with Carlo Bacci, the Open Meeting Law (OML) may have been violated). I shared this information with my husband, who on February 3 shared this information with my former colleague and friend Karen Herrick. My choice for Town Manager was not the same as Ms. Herrick’s.

The next morning, I received text messages from two Town Meeting members closely affiliated with Ms. Herrick who wanted to talk as soon as possible. One texted me that an OML violation “would be disastrous if it delegitimized the outcome” of the vote for a new Town Manager. The other told me that “someone” was preparing to file an OML complaint against me. It became clear to me that both the Town Manager hiring process and my reputation would be at serious risk if I voted for my choice.

This was upsetting and scary. A potential OML misstep was now a weapon when it came to the power and control of Reading’s government. There was no suggestion from these individuals that I should take corrective action on the OML issue. It was all about my choice for Town Manager. However, I did not inform these individuals that I had already determined that the remedy for the potential OML violation was to disclose and recuse myself from the process, which I did on February 6.

I understand and respect the public advocacy process. Residents and businesses contacted me on a regular basis about important votes. I had numerous debates and intense discussions about the issues. Some of my votes were disappointing to certain groups of people. I get that this was all part of a healthy policymaking process. That said, I will not accept threats to our process or my reputation in exchange for my vote. These circumstances prompted my resignation from the Board.

Where do we go from here? In my last letter dated April 8, I stated that I was “weighing participating in a properly scoped investigation….” Will an investigation lead to a less divided Reading? In my opinion, No.

With all this in mind, I will not participate in the investigation. Hopefully, Reading’s politics will be better from this experience.


Jackie McCarthy
Beacon Street

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