AYER - He insisted he was not angry, though he spoke in a forceful manner and was waving a copy of the July 6 edition of the Ayer Public Spirit Newspaper.
On Monday, downtown landlord Calvin Moore vented to the Ayer Board of Selectmen.
"Garbage," is how Moore described a front-page story entitled "Pop-up selex meeting sparks battle royal".
"It's totally unacceptable," said Moore.
The story focused on the selectmen's struggle to convene a special meeting on Friday, June 29 at 2 p.m. The midday meeting was convened by Chairman Jim Fay to accommodate Moore's admittedly eleventh-hour request for board approval of a subordination agreement so he could consummate the pending sale of his "Spaulding" building at 25 Main Street.
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand confirmed a key piece of the story that Moore complained about - Moore had visited the selectmen's office on Monday, June 25 and again on Wednesday, June 27 and had raised his voice when seeking assistance from selectmen's secretary Janet Lewis.
On the second go-round, Pontbriand personally left his adjoining office to intervene and ask Moore to quiet down.
Pontbriand recalled advising Moore that only a selectman could convene a board meeting. Pontbriand said Moore immediately called Fay, who tasked Pontbriand to "poll the board" about calling a special meeting.
Since the law requires at least 48-hour advance notice for a public meeting, Pontbriand said the soonest the board could meet
Despite the quorum concern, Pontbriand said Fay set the 2 p.m. meeting time.
The newspaper story never stated Moore was boisterous at the June 29 meeting itself. Still, Moore blasted that the story was "absolutely false" in stating that he acted-up at the Friday meeting. Moore promised he'd "question where the reporter got these facts from."
Nashoba Publishing did not have a reporter at the June 29 meeting. Rather the newspaper reported on post-meeting selectmen email traffic as provided by selectman Pauline Conley.
Included in the email traffic were several personal insults leveled at Conley by Fay. Both Fay and Conley have confirmed their emails were accurately printed in the paper in terms of content and context.
In a June 30 email exchange, Conley blasted Fay for acquiescing to Moore's special meeting request in light of his treatment of Lewis, slamming the "seller's disrespectful behavior" though never identifying Moore by name. "There is NO excuse for the seller's belligerent attitude toward Janet Monday and again Wednesday - both of which were the talk of the building and the second of which was witnessed and intervened in by Robert [Pontbriand]."
Conley, who is privately employed, has consistently asked her peers not to convene meetings during the work day. She responded to Pontbriand's poll on Wednesday and said that she could not make a 2 p.m. meeting since she was already scheduled to lose a half day of work to conduct contract negotiations with the patrolman's union alongside self-employed selectman Christopher Hillman on Friday morning. Conley instead offered to meet after work at 5:15 p.m.
Conley said Moore's behavior was "as distasteful to me as your continued disregard for other members of this Board I don't see how any of that translates into the 'important business of the people of Ayer."
Moore blasted the Ayer Public Spirit Newspaper and Conley. "I do not deserve this type of disrespectful reporting. This type of garbage is unacceptable to me. It's unacceptable for a selectman to say these things.
"I'd like to think the apology would be as large" as the headline, groused Moore. Moore alleged that Lewis was "crushed" to see the matter in print, though Lewis was seated at the boardroom table.
"No one in the room said I was respectful[sic]," said Moore. " Unless it was a witch-hunt out to get me. Mr. Chairman, the town's real tired of this garbage."
Moore thanked selectman Frank Maxant for changing course and attending the June 29 meeting, stating Maxant went "above and beyond you made it happen."
Moore admitted his request was "pushed up to the eleventh hour" and explained he was in a "catch 22" situation. "I couldn't do this until I did that .For those who helped me make it happen, thank you."
Hillman recalled "finding Frank and getting it done was a little stressful" on June 29. Hillman said he thought Moore was "very respectful on the day of this special meeting that's all I can say"
Selectman Gary Luca, who is Ayer's postmaster, said "I apologize" for not being at the meeting due to his work conflict. "I understand," said Moore. "We knew that in advance."
Despite Conley's Wednesday email to Pontbriand, Fay continued to claim Conley was lying. "I do not believe you when you say you had an employment conflict. Rather I believe you did this to stick it to Calvin."
Not true, said Conley. The morning negotiations "started late [and] ran late." Conley said it should have been clear to Lewis, Pontbriand and Hillman that she was hurrying off to work when leaving Town Hall on June 29 at 1:20 p.m. with no intention of attending the 2 p.m. meeting.
Pontbriand maintains the selectmen who'd answered 'yes' to his poll for a 2 o'clock meeting were Fay, Hillman and Maxant. However, Pontbriand said he was unaware that Maxant had called to cancel with Fay the night before, citing a need to tend instead to his sister's farm on Taft Street during that hour.
Short a selectman, Hillman unsuccessfully lobbied Conley at 2 p.m. to return to One Main Street though she was already back at work. With the interested parties assembled and waiting at Town Hall, Moore ultimately drove over to Taft Street and prevailed upon Maxant to change his mind.
Moore drove Maxant to Town Hall, resulting in a quorum and leading to the 3-0 vote to satisfy Moore's original request.
As of Tuesday at noon, there's no deed on record for the sale of 25 Main Street. However Moore stated the deal was imminent.
On Monday, a deed was recorded for Moore's sale of neighboring 21 Main Street to Lionel-Wilfred Properties, LLC, managed by Christine and Jean Coutu of Townsend.
About an hour after the special June 29 meeting concluded, Fay (a retiree) sparked an email skirmish when issuing a "special thank you" to Maxant (a retiree) and Hillman for joining him to "make quorum" to "conduct the "important business of the people of Ayer."
Fay took a swipe at Conley. "I understand Pauline left unexpectedly at 1:40 p.m. today and left us potentially without a quorum." At least three of five selectmen must attend a board meeting to legally conduct business.
Conley answered that she'd RSVP-ed to Pontbriand that she couldn't attend at 2 p.m. "That contradicts what I interpreted from my staff here at Town Hall," replied Fay. Despite tasking Pontbriand with polling the membership, Fay said he "got a call from Janet" that the "final quorum would be myself, Pauline and Chris." Fay also admitted that before the meeting he "got a call from Frank that there was a conflict."
Fay said he was not sure if Pontbriand ever communicated to him that Conley could not attend. "He may have sent me an email that I did not check. I did not receive that information."
Maxant apologized if his "flip-flop contributed" to the confusion. Maxant said when learning that "Pauline could be here at 5", Maxant figured "so let the meeting happen at 5."
But Maxant acquiesced to Moore's request. "The Moore family is like family to the Maxant family."
Maxant suggested "my vacillation was a major contributor" to the hubbub. "For that I apologize."
"We're not perfect," said Fay. "We're trying."
"There was a lot of confusion ," agreed Moore. " but that's not what I'm complaining about."
Lewis ventured, "When Pauline was in the [morning] meeting, everyone assumed she could just stay on." Conley disagreed.
"You saw me leave in a hurry," said Conley. "I've never told anyone I'd be here at 2 o'clock. When Hillman contacted me and asked could I please come back, I never indicated even remotely I could be here."
"I do not have the luxury" of taking off as much work at will, Conley said.
To Moore, Conley clarified "I never ever mentioned you by name. That was Mr. Fay's doing, not mine."
Brandishing the newspaper, Moore asked "Who are you mentioning is the 'seller'?"
Conley offered to provide Moore with email copies. Moore ignored the offer and continued on, "We can start peeing all over this all night long. Everyone wants the last word There was mass confusion We all know people have jobs. Let's all end it."
"I did come out of my office and explained what our options would be" recalled Pontbriand when he intercepted Moore in the selectmen's office, explaining that convening a meeting was "not Ms. Lewis' purview."
Asked if Moore's voice was "elevated" on that visit, Pontbriand paused and looked at Moore before answering, "I'd say you were upset and anxious to get this done."
"Not angry," blurted Moore.
"Kind of like your normal demeanor?" Luca deadpanned.
"Janet was concerned," said Pontbriand. "She felt she was put in the middle to try to set this up before the board."
Moore said it was a "high pressure" situation, with the 4th of July holiday week looming.
Fay's emails included several personal attacks on Conley. "I believe you are [an] insult to all selectmen who ever served" wrote Fay.
"I am not calling you a liar," said Fay in another email. "I simply do not believe you" regarding Conley's stated work conflict on June 29.
"I am not name-calling. I simply state my opinion," said Fay in another passage. "You have earned my disrespect."
Conley didn't return fire in the same manner but insisted "This insanity has to stop!"
In a later email, Fay asked Pontbriand to agenda for a future meeting "a discussion on an HR workshop to resolve these issues." The board meets again on Tuesday, July 17.
Follow Mary Arata on Twitter.com/maryearata and Facebook.com/mary.arata.