SHIRLEY -- The Board of Selectmen's meeting was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, with an executive session first. But with only a couple of items on the agenda -- appointments to the Recreational Fields Committee and extending the closing date for the pending sale of a town-owned building -- the board decided to reverse its agenda.
After polishing off its public business in about five minutes, the selectmen adjourned into executive session, reportedly to discuss litigation initiated by the ACLU against the town on behalf of a board member who has been banned from public buildings in town for the past year.
According to previous newspaper articles, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken up the cause of Robert Schuler, whose comments during sessions of the two boards he serves on -- the Sewer Commission and Finance Committee -- prompted selectmen to banish him.
Until he complies with certain conditions, Schuler can't attend Town Meeting without a police escort, nor can he enter the town offices, where the Finance Committee meets, or any other public building in town. Despite the ban, the two boards support him as a valued member and he continues to participate in their meetings. He has since been reappointed to Finance Committee, in which he participates by telephone.
In addition, the police were instructed to confiscate guns from his home, which have not yet been returned.
Conditions selectmen set for reinstating his rights to enter
In the suit, Schuler claims selectmen's action against him violated his civil rights.
Selectmen, however, said at the time that his remarks, repeated at least twice in public, constituted a threat.
Schuler, for his part, said he was not threatening anyone when he said he might have to get a gun and shoot someone but was basically only kidding. He was reacting, he said, to selectmen's foot-dragging when it came to addressing town budget problems. He called his statements "hyperbole."
The selectmen met in executive session for less than an hour, reconvening publicly only to adjourn.