Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
The Fairhaven Select Board on July 12 heard from Town Counsel Tom Crotty via an email stating that the judge presiding over the lawsuit by Zachary Mayo of New England Preservation and Development against the Town has dismissed the developer’s case, ordered Mr. Mayo to pay the Town’s legal expenses, and dissolved the accompanying lis pendens on the Rogers School property.
“Lis pendens … I don’t know what that means,” said Select Board Chairperson Daniel Freitas.
The lis pendens, or the official notice that a property is involved in legal action, was the topic of discussion during the 6/9 meeting when Mr. Crotty brought it to the board’s attention that the Town would be unable to enter into any lease agreement with the Southeastern Educational Collaborative (SMEC) until the lawsuit was resolved.
At that time, Mr. Crotty suggested that a letter from SMEC expressing interest in leasing the property might be grounds to expedite the judge’s decision given that it had been months since the Town filed a motion to dismiss.
Mr. Mayo, the grandson of Board of Health member Michael Ristuccia, who has spoken on his grandson’s behalf on many occasions, filed the lawsuit after the Select Board terminated the purchase and sale agreement during its 6/29/20 meeting because Mr. Mayo failed to produce documentation of financing, among other conditions of the contract.
The Town has 30 days to submit affidavits for attorney fees for reimbursement from Mr. Mayo.
Also during the meeting, Select Board member Bob Espindola, who attended the meeting remotely via Zoom, wanted to make a general comment on “communication” just before adjournment. He brought up the high school turf field project and Interim Town Administrator Wendy Graves’s involvement in the procurement process.
“There’s been a lot … on social media about the turf field and the extra dollars that have been allocated… from the School Committee,” said Mr. Espindola, referring to the roughly $800,000 in leftover school budget funds that have been redirected toward the turf project that was presented to the 2020 Fall Special Town Meeting as a $1.4 million project and is now estimated at $2.2 million.
According to Mr. Espindola, the process started about a month ago when Ms. Graves “went through a signoff process” as the Town’s signing authority for procurement.
“Personally, I would have liked to have seen that [the project’s increase in scope and the additional $800,000 to fund it] come before our board,” said Mr. Espindola. “As a checkpoint there, she had the authority to hold that, and then we could have had a discussion.”
Adding that he realized the School Committee has the autonomy to spend school funding however it sees fit, he continued, “There would have been an opportunity, had [the Select Board] been aware” that the board could have held a joint meeting with the Finance Committee to discuss the ramifications of expanding the project and paying for it with leftover FY21 budget money.
“In the future, I’d like to be informed…” continued Mr. Espindola until Select Board member Keith Silvia called out “Bob!” loud enough to finally get Mr. Espindola’s attention.
“We can’t really talk about this because it’s not on the agenda,” said Mr. Silvia.
Ms. Graves agreed that it was not on the agenda. Still, Mr. Espindola said, he was relating it back to Ms. Graves’s TA report she gave earlier and, “As one of the functions that she has,” Mr. Espindola suggested, “If there are concerns with anything of this nature that it be brought to our attention and that we receive copies of that correspondence….
“I think the Select Board deserves to know something of this importance,” Mr. Espindola further argued. “From a communication standpoint, I think the Select Board needs to know about something of this importance. Had we known, maybe there could have been a different outcome.”
Ms. Graves shot back in defense, saying, “Let me ask you this: Did [former Town Administrator Mark Rees] always bring all of the procurements to the board?”
Mr. Espindola replied, no, not with typical standard procurements, as Ms. Graves spoke again: “That’s my question.”
Mr. Espindola began to explain that Mr. Rees “would have regular meetings with –” but he was stopped there by Mr. Freitas.
“You know, Bob?” said Mr. Freitas followed by thrice hammering the gavel, bang, bang, bang. “This was not on the agenda, Bob.”
Mr. Freitas warned Mr. Espindola again that the matter could not be discussed when it was not on the agenda. “We should stop talking about this.”
When Mr. Espindola explained what he was trying to accomplish regarding communication, Mr. Freitas’s face expressed exasperation.
“When we communicate on stuff you tell us we can’t,” said Mr. Freitas, and he again suggested waiting until another meeting to continue discussing the topic, which he himself then continued to discuss.
“And I don’t believe this has not been a month. This came about last week, you know, so don’t,” continued Mr. Freitas.
Mr. Espindola said he understood the procurement started last month.
“The timing isn’t important, but the communication is,” said Mr. Espindola.
“The timing is very important,” interjected Ms. Graves. “It was right after Town Meeting.* There was every opportunity for them to bring it to our attention.”
In other matters, Cathy Melanson requested an appointment to the Rogers School Re-Use Committee as a representative of the Economic Development Committee, but the matter was tabled until the board can act to increase the size of that committee from five to seven members. The board also approved the transfer of Taylor Seafood’s aquaculture lease to Blue Stream Aquaculture.
*Town Meeting was held on June 12, one month ago.
Click here to download the entire 7/15/21 issue: 07-15-21 FhvnPride
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal.