TOWNSEND -- Selectmen Chairwoman Sue Lisio accused Selectman Carolyn Smart of overstepping her authority Tuesday night after Smart made a request of town counsel without discussion from the Board of Selectmen.
A letter that Smart sent to law firm Kopelman and Paige on May 27 questioned the legality of a vote passed at annual Town Meeting last month to approve borrowing to fund two years of capital-planning requests.
Smart said the items listed under fiscal 2016 had not yet been reviewed by the Capital Planning Committee, which she served on. The committee only reviews and recommends projects for one year at a time, but includes five years of requests from department heads in a document submitted to selectmen, she said. Under the Capital Planning Committee bylaw, capital projects must be prioritized and reviewed by the committee.
"The bylaw outlines the recommended capital budget is for the upcoming fiscal year, while the capital program is for future years. The capital budget submitted to Town Meeting included future year requests, as argued and noted that were not reviewed nor recommended by the Capital Planning Committee," Smart wrote.
Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said because all of the projects approved at Town Meeting were listed on that document, the Capital Planning Committee had approved them.
At Tuesday night's Board of Selectmen meeting, Smart claimed three previously issued legal opinions agreed with her interpretation of the bylaw.
Sheehan said that no such legal opinion exists, but town counsel signed off on the Town Meeting warrant and did not bring up any issues relating to the warrant article on the capital-borrowing measure.
Lisio said that by signing the letter as the clerk of the Board of Selectmen, Smart was acting as a selectmen outside of a board meeting without authorization.
"If correspondence such as this is going to town counsel, it's something that we should talk about as a board, because none of us are board members unless we are meeting as a board," Lisio said.
Furthermore, a statement in the letter in which Smart said she had contacted the Attorney General's office on the issue led Lisio to say she considered the letter a "veiled threat."
"I'm not offended by it, I'm appalled by it because it goes against what a Board of Selectmen member should be doing," Lisio said.
Sheehan said he thought the intent of the letter was clear.
"This is not a veiled threat of litigation, it is a threat of litigation," Sheehan said.
Smart claimed she wasn't acting in an official capacity or threatening the town, but was simply looking for information.
Selectman Colin McNabb questioned why Smart opposed a plan that allowed department heads to receive more capital funding than they normally would have.
"I'm assuming that they were tickled pink that they were going to get projects or items that they were otherwise not going to get," McNabb said about the department heads.
"It was approved by the Finance Committee and overwhelmingly supported by Town Meeting," he added.
Kopelman and Paige has not yet responded to the letter, Sheehan said.
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