By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 9/6/22, the Fairhaven Select Board had scheduled a hearing that was requested by Wayne Oliveira to appeal the no-trespass order keeping him away from Fairhaven Town Hall for 60 days (see 8/25/22 and 9/1/22 issues). However, Attorney Philip Beauregard sent a letter saying he had been retained by Mr. Oliveira and, “Mr. Oliveira will not proceed with tonight’s hearing.”
The letter states that the no-trespass notice was issued as a result of Mr. Oliveira’s presence at town hall while his wife, Vicki Oliveira, was “experiencing a health crisis that resulted in her being transported by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital.”
The letter states that Town Administrator Angie Lopes Ellison “placed herself in a position where she could observe and hear Vicki Oliveira’s description of the health criss that she was experiencing.”
Mr. Oliveira became “deeply concerned for his wife’s welfare,” and he “strongly objected to Ms. Ellison’s presence and refusal to remove herself from the situation.”
The letter notes that the incident was in the context of Ms. Ellison “having recently terminated Mrs. Oliveira from her position as Assistant Town Administrator* and treating Mrs. Oliveira in a highly arbitrary and unreasonable manner for several weeks.”
The letter notes that Mr. Oliveira would not be allowed in the building for the hearing and that Mr. Oliveira had received “communications” that his appeal would be denied.
“Neither the Oliveiras’ nor the public interest will be served by putting on public display the unfortunate series of actions by Ms. Ellison that have resulted in Mrs. Oliveira’s unlawful termination.”
The letter also suggests that a wrongful termination lawsuit is in the works, suggesting her removal from her position was due to her speaking out about changes to the town hall, an historic building.
Mr. Oliveira is the chair of the Historical Commission and clashed publicly with Ms. Ellison over the swapping of the Collector’s Office and SB/TA’s office, which includes removing the counter that is bolted to the floor.
“The appropriate claim and court battle, if necessary, will be Vicki Oliveira’s claim for the illegal termination of her employment, not a challenge to a misplaced and improvident misuse of the no trespass statute notice process,” reads the letter.
When the appointed time came for the hearing, SB Chairperson Stasia Powers briefly stated that the hearing was canceled because Mr. Oliveira said he would not proceed with it.
A few items down on the agenda, Mr. Oliveira, who was joining the meeting via Zoom, said that the Select Board was supposed to read his attorney’s letter during the scheduled time of the hearing. Ms. Powers said town counsel had advised that the hearing simply be canceled and that the letter not be read.
“That is not the case,” said Mr. Oliveira, adding that reading the letter into the record is not the same as a public hearing.
Ms. Powers disagreed and moved the meeting along.
During the regular public comment period, several people spoke to criticize the decision to ban Mr. Oliveira from town hall and to remove his wife Vicki from her post as Assistant to the Town Administrator.**
Judith Legendre addressed the board, saying she grew up in Fairhaven and loves the town, because it is charming and historic.
“I am heartbroken,” said Ms. Legendre, adding she has a lot of respect for the Select Board, but there is a “huge problem in this town.”
She said Mr. Oliveira “has done so much for the town of Fairhaven. To have his reputation tarnished, or try to be tarnished, is shocking.”
She said he worked his way up through the ranks to be a respected paramedic in Fairhaven and at his job at St. Luke’s Hospital.
All eyes are watching this, she said, as Mr. Oliveira was “basically protecting his wife.”
“He did not use foul language,” she said, he did not “get into anyone’s face.” Yet he is being treated “like a defendant.”
She said she hoped there would be a public apology to Mr. Oliveira because there was no reason for the no trespass order.
“I love the town of Fairhaven, but right now I am ashamed,” said Ms. Legendre.
Tracy Travers also spoke, reading a lengthy statement that went over the two minutes.
She quoted from Ms. Ellison’s contract and took issue with various aspects, such as her duties including the “proper operation of the town.”
“Little has been proper,” said Ms. Travers.
She also said Ms. Ellison was not “seasoned,” and had created a “poor working environment” in town hall.
Ms. Travers said “it has been said” that cameras are now in offices, and started to say “I don’t know,” when Ms. Powers interrupted her.
“All right, that’s it. That’s enough,” said Ms. Powers. “You are not going to use our meeting to spread rumors. Sit down, thank you very much.”
“You have to listen to the end of it,” said Ms. Travers.
“I do not have to listen to the end of it,” said Ms. Powers.
“Listen to your constituents,” said Ms. Travers.
Mr. Oliveira used his two minutes to read as much of the letter as he could, ending at about the 3/4 mark, at which point he was stopped.
“I’ve been silenced yet again,” said Mr. Oliveira.
“This is horrible,” said Ms. Legendre. “I’m actually ashamed to be a Fairhaven resident.”
And she left the Banquet Room.
“We can vote them out,” said Kathy Isaksen from her seat.
SB Vice Chair Leon Correy noted that not all the information could be made public because of “certain rules that have to be followed” surrounding personnel issues.
He asked people to stop spreading rumors, noting that only a “handful of people” know the details.
He said the board members were elected to do a job, let them do it. He invited people to get involved they are not happy, as he did.
“I ask everyone to just settle down and allow us to do our jobs,” and make Fairhaven the best it can be, said Mr. Correy.
In related, redacted documents provided to the Neighb News through a public records request, Ms. Ellison’s account of what happened during Ms. Oliveira’s medical incident is a bit different than Mr. Oliveira’s and those publicly defending him
Ms. Ellison contends that Mr. Oliveira used profanity, liberally using the f-word, and speaking and acting in a threatening manner. She filed a police report the next day, and told police that Mr. Oliveira instructed EMTs to call the police because for his own protection because “he didn’t know what he would do to me.”
The Paramedics’ statement is less detailed, and only states that Mr. Oliveira “asked” Ms. Ellison to leave and she did not, “even though Mr. Oliveira asked multiple times. Thus, Mr. Oliveira requested Fairhaven Police Department to the scene.”
The police report notes that SB member Keith Silvia contacted Ms. Ellison the next day, 8/12/22, and told her he had spoken with Mr. Oliveira at the town hall concert the night before, 8/11, which was the day of the incident. According to the police report, Mr. Silvia told Ms. Ellison that “Mr. Oliveira was very upset about what happened earlier that day at town hall and that Wayne made threatening type statements to him about Ms. Ellison.”
At that point, according to the police report, Ms. Ellison wanted the incident documented and asked for police to “reach out to Mr. Oliveira to make sure there would be no further confrontations as she was concerned for her wellbeing.”
In the police report, Ms. Silvia is also interviewed and states that Mr. Oliveira told him he asked for police because he “wasn’t sure what he might do.”
That part of the report is underlined and amended to say “she” instead of “he,” a change made by Mr. Oliveira.
Mr. Oliveira has said in a written statement that he was asking for police to protect himself because he believed Ms. Ellison would use the incident against him and his wife.
In his interview with police, “Mr. Oliveira stated that he was the one who felt threatened at the time.”
Mr. Oliveira also amended Cameron Durant’s interview. He was in the room for the last 30 seconds or so of the incident, at Ms. Ellison’s request. In his statement he said Mr. Oliveira told him to leave the room for his own good, although Mr. Durant did not take it as a threat. Mr. Oliveira amended that statement, writing, “I told him to get Angie out of the room.”
In another matter, Ms. Ellison reviewed a 2019 American with Disabilities Act assessment by JM Booth & Associates. In it the company makes several recommendations.
Number seven is to swap the Collector’s Office and the Select Board/TA’s office.
The intent of the study was to review the accessible path for the first floor.
“The Town desired to have a public path from the north banquet hall up to the main level of the building which is several steps above the accessible entrance,” reads the study.
The study includes a variety of options, including some expensive renovations to make the offices accessible to people in wheelchairs.
Recommendation seven reads: Relocate the Town Administrator’s/ Selectmen’s office to the current Tax Collector’s Office and the Tax Collector’s Office to the current Town Admin Office, in an effort to make the tax collector’s office more accessible to the public. It is our understanding that the Tax Collector’s Office is utilized more frequently by the public than the Town Admin. Office.”
Ms. Ellison said it validates the initial move that caused confusion.
She said they also did an “informal study” with staff and found that it was a two to one ratio of how many people use the two offices, with twice as many using the Collector’s Office.
“And that wasn’t even during tax time,” said Ms. Ellison, adding it would be even more when various bills are due. “So it was a good move to relocate that office.”
She said she would like to get the study updated, as other offices have also moved.
SB member Bob Espindola noted that the recommendations have significant price tags to them. He said COVID interrupted any changes they might have made, and he would like to see them included in the capital plan.
*Ms. Oliveira was Assistant to the Town Administrator, not Assistant Town Administrator.
**Fixes errors from previous versions: Assistant to the Town Administrator, not Assistant Town Administrator.
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