Select Board Reorganizes and Moves Forward

Bacci Elected Chair of Select Board

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READING, MA — Calling it an “affront to our town,” acting Select Board chair Mark Dockser opened Tuesday’s Select Board meeting with a statement regarding the bomb threat at the Reading Public Library this past Saturday. The threat, which the Reading Police Department stated in a release was aimed at disrupting a Pride event, is still under investigation by the department. “We need to call this out as a community and stand up [to say] that hate has no home in our community,” Dockser declared. “Threats will not be tolerated.”

Dockser continued, “We can set a better example of how to behave and how to lead.” It was in this context that Dockser then nominated Select Board member Carlo Bacci as chair of the board and member Karen Herrick as vice-chair. Dockser added that his nominations are a “solid way forward to work together and toward compromise.” After the other members spoke denouncing Saturday’s threats, the board voted 4-0 to make the appointments.

After Bacci took the gavel, Select Board member Chris Haley was nominated and then elected as secretary.

Investigation into Board Conduct

The board also had a discussion regarding a possible investigation into board conduct. Bacci made clear that the agenda item as presented was only to hold a discussion on the matter and not to vote. Town Counsel Ivria Fried recommended that if the board chose to proceed, any investigation should be conducted by a third party. She also recommended that the board would have to determine the scope and goals of any investigation. “It’s your investigation to craft and then hand it over to the investigator,” Fried commented.

Dockser, while supportive of an investigation into whether the board violated its own policies, cautioned against the goals of an investigation being too broad. “If the mission is to honor what [former Select Board chair Jackie McCarthy] said and to find out if anybody violated board policies, OK, I’m good,” Dockser offered. “I think it would be difficult to say we are going to honor her request to keep it as a private matter…but not really.”

Bacci agreed that, while any investigation should include all four board members, McCarthy was within her rights to refuse to participate. “It has not been pleasant since February 6. I was a part of that, and I take responsibility,” Bacci noted. Bacci also indicated that there had been enough of a call for answers from community members to warrant an investigation. “[An investigation] is very murky waters we’re going into, but I want to move forward,” Bacci indicated.

Herrick expressed concern over having an investigation without clear goals, “I don’t understand what we would be seeking to get out of this investigation,” Herrick added. “I am loath to spend taxpayer dollars on an investigation that we haven’t clearly defined; I don’t see what would come out of it that would help us.”

She also shared concerns about violating McCarthy’s right to privacy. “There needs to be clear evidence that something went wrong beyond someone’s personal opinion that they have had enough,” Herrick stated. Fried reminded the board that any documentation produced by an investigation would become a public record.

Herrick also suggested that if there was actual evidence of misconduct, then it should be reported to the appropriate authorities. Fried continued, reminding the board that if misconduct were discovered, the board has no recourse to dismiss a member. It could only be done via a recall or the annual election.

Bacci concluded the discussion, stating that he would craft a more narrowly focused agenda item for the next Select Board meeting on April 9.

New Town Meeting start date

The Select Board voted 4-0 to move the start date of the April Town Meeting to Thursday, April 25, to avoid conflict with Passover. By a 4-0 vote, the board also approved the Board of Registrars’ recommendation that in-person early voting for the May 14 special election be held at Town Hall from May 4-9 during regular business hours. Residents may also vote in the election by mail.

CPA Study Committee Membership

The board voted 3-0-1 to modify the Community Preservation Act study committee to include a member of the Conservation Commission and to reduce the number of residents-at-large on the committee to one, maintaining a committee of seven. The board also voted 3-0-1 to appoint Bacci as their representative to the committee. Select Board member Christopher Haley abstained from both votes due to a possible conflict of interest.

Angstrom Reappointed Accountant

By a 4-0 vote, the board appointed Sharon Angstrom to remain as the accountant from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2025.

Hazard Mitigation Plan

After a presentation by Community Development Director Andrew MacNichol, the board voted 4-0 to adopt an update to the town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. According to MacNichol, this plan must be updated every five years to keep the town eligible for federal grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other state and federal departments. These grants include the $2.1 million MVP grant the town received to work on the Maillet, Sommes, and Morgan watershed and recreation area.

The board adjourned at 9:30 pm to executive session.

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