TOWNSEND -- The Board of Selectmen appointed two new members to the Conservation Committee on Tuesday, ending the long debate over the vacancies.

In early July, the board and Conservation Commission had a special work session in which they tried to agree on whom to appoint to the two open spots in the commission but failed to make a decision.

On Aug. 12 the board decided to hold a meeting to interview all candidates for appointment and reappointment of the commission positions since the commission itself could not resolve their conflict.

"I understand that there have been all kinds of disagreements, some little and some not so little on this current commission," said Selectman Sue Lisio.

The issue began when Mary Small decided to take a leave of absence in September and at the same time the committee was seeking two new members.

The seven-member commission asked Stephen Marshall to attend commission meetings to get a better understanding of the commission's duties before appointment.

Small returned from her leave of absence in January and voted for Emily Norton and Veronica Kell as the new members.

This initiated a debate between Commissioners James Deroian and John Hussey and the rest of the commission over whether the appointment of the new members was fair because they believed Small had resigned.

Due to this debate selectmen decided to hold interviews, and as the appointing authority, choose the new members.


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Emily Norton, Veronica Kell and Stephen Marshall were interviewed to fill the two open vacancies and Karen Chapman, chair of the Conservation Commission and Jennifer Pettit, member, were interviewed for reappointment.

"I just have a question: Are you doing reappointments for other boards, too?" said Chapman. "It's unusual and I hope you do it for other committees as well."

Lisio said she should not count on it.

Chapman asked Lisio why the board chose them for reappointment interviews.

"It was because of the difficulties your commission has been having," said Lisio.

Lisio talked about the expectations she had for the commission members such as following the open meeting law and attending as many meetings as possible.

Chapman asked Lisio if there have been any specific complaints about open meeting law violations and Lisio said there haven't. But she has heard comments from people who say that members have been having conversations among themselves prior to commission meetings, she added.

Even though that might not be the case, Lisio said, she is concerned about the perception people have of the commission.

"I think this whole thing is accusatory," said Chapman.

Selectman Colin McNabb said no one was being accused of anything and he was sorry Chapman felt that way.

Chapman left the room and later returned with a typed letter of resignation.

"Karen has decided to resign and I am very sorry she felt like she had to do that," said Lisio.

The board interviewed the remaining candidates: Norton, Kell, Jennifer Pettit and Stephen Marshall and decided to appoint Emily Norton for a two-year-term and Stephen Marshall for a one-year-term. Jennifer Pettit was reappointed to her original seat.

Karen Chapman's seat will be advertised for 10 days. The Conservation Commission will meet Aug. 29 and decide its recommendation for the open position.