AYER -- Selectmen continued to set clear rules and parameters for Selectman Frank Maxant, specifically taking a vote on Tuesday that clarifies that the board has made no official stance on a Town Meeting-approved home rule petition to shrink the size of the board from five to three members. Maxant joined in for the 5-0 vote.
Maxant offered to "testify" for the board at a Wednesday morning Statehouse hearing on the petition. Selectman Pauline Conley asked her peers to weigh in on Maxant's offer in light of the events of the past few weeks.
Two weeks ago, Maxant attempted to drive forward a theoretical proposal for Ayer to loan Shirley $500,000 to help Shirley cover its share of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District tab. The idea was later trounced by Shirley selectmen.
The idea, floated by Ayer town accountant Lisa Gabree, was for Ayer to loan the money, collateralized by Shirley municipal property.
Maxant took the idea a step further, asking the governor's office to convey land within the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone to Shirley to act as collateral for Ayer.
After Maxant contacted the state, the Ayer Board of Selectmen voted to strip Maxant of his title as vice chairman and wrote a letter to the state, clarifying that Maxant was acting on his own accord in making the land-transfer request.
In light of the board's perception that Maxant was going rogue, Conley stated she wanted to "make sure we give you direction."
Selectman Christopher Hillman said Wednesday's hearing was perfunctory, adding the Legislature is "pretty much a rubber stamp down there" in regards to Ayer's own request. "It's going to come back to the people of Ayer, so there's really not much we can say that's going to change anything."
"I wouldn't want you to say anything one way or another," added Luca.
Chairman Jim Fay said the discussion was "moot" because selectmen hadn't ever voted one way or another on the issue in the past.
Conley pressed to ensure that Maxant only speak as a "private citizen.
"I would not want him to speak as Selectman Frank Maxant and advocate anything one way or another except as a private resident."
Conley asked Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand to relay to the board what Maxant had told them both earlier that evening as to what Maxant intended to say at the hearing. Maxant interrupted "I can speak for myself."
Maxant started by assuring that he wouldn't "hesitate to identify myself" as a selectman, adding that "anyone that knows government" realizes that a selectman is elected and can testify on points of interest without his host board's blessing. "Anyone with common sense should resent your inference."
Maxant said he'd present "facts," such as the Town Meeting vote. "If the board doesn't want to me to say that, I won't say that."
"I'm presenting information," answered Maxant. "I'm not taking a position."
"So if you're asked a question, you're not going to give them an answer?" asked Luca.
Conley pressed Maxant to ensure he'd not make comment under the auspices of the collective board. "If they're stupid enough to need that," said Maxant, "I'll state it."
Luca motioned specifically that the board has no formal position on the matter. "It was done at Town Meeting."
The board unanimously agreed with the statement.