By Beth David, Editor
Fairhaven Selectboard members had a testy exchange with members of the Marine Resources Committee at the Selectboard meeting on 7/10, on an issue that has been brewing beneath the surface for months, and has heated up in the last few weeks.
At issue is that Robert “Hoppy” Hobson, a member of the Board of Public Works, is also on the Marine Resources Committee (formerly known as the Hoppy’s Landing Committee).
For years, the issue of a BPW member being on another board has been a bone of contention with various members. The special legislation that created the BPW, according to town officials, prohibits a member from being on another board.
Marine Resources chairperson Frank Coelho, however, said he has never seen the wording of the law and has asked for it repeatedly.
Town Administrator Mark Rees handed Mr. Coelho a copy that evening, as Mr. Coelho noted that he had not received it, despite repeated requests for it.
Selectboard member Daniel Freitas said that the issue came up when Keith Silvia was appointed to the BPW and had to resign from the Zoning Board of Appeals. He noted at the time that Mr. Hobson was on two boards. Mr. Freitas said he asked for Town Counsel to make a ruling on it.
The whole thing started in November of 2016, but disappeared into never-never-land until recently.
Mr. Hobson has said to anyone who will listen that it all came about when he spoke against hiring Mr. Freitas’s daughter for a summer BPW job.
Mr. Freitas said, at the 7/10 meeting, that he would not have his name “dragged through the mud” on TV, “by Mr. Hobson, of all people.”
Mr. Freitas and Mr. Hobson served on the BPW together for awhile, before Mr. Freitas was elected to the Selectboard.
Mr. Rees said there was a “clear prohibition,” with an exception for a BPW liaison. He said the Selectboard had to ask the BPW if they wanted to appoint a liaison to the Marine Resources Committee. Then the BPW can opt to do that and vote in whomever they want, not necessarily Mr. Hobson.
According to Mr. Coelho the Marine Resources Committee received the letter with town counsel’s recommendations in late June, although the letter was written back in January.
Mr. Coelho tried to present his case, with a list of dates that he tried to run through, to show the suspicious nature of the timing of the letter he received, only to be interrupted by Mr. Freitas and stopped by Mr. Espindola.
With the men all talking over each other, Mr. Coelho got drowned out.
Mr. Freitas won the day, saying he had “no problem” with the BPW having a liaison on the Marine Resources Committee and would make the motion himself for a “full voting member” of the MRC.
Selectboard member Charles Murphy managed to get his two cents in and said he had “no issue,” with the BPW having a liaison on the MRC.
Chairperson Bob Espindola also agreed.
“I’ve been trying to do this since last November,” said Mr. Coelho.
Mr. Hobson told the board that when he first got on the BPW, the chair at the time told him he could not be on any other boards. He said it was not long before he noticed that others were on more than one board.
“So I said, ‘if they can be on another board, why can’t I,’” said Mr. Hobson.
“I’m just trying to say, if you want, I’ll resign…just have everyone else resign,” he said.
Mr. Espindola admitted that the town needed to “do a better job” of keeping track of who is on boards. The Selectboard is the appointing authority for all non-elected boards.
“Some things in the town of Fairhaven are good for some people, and ain’t good for others,” said Mr. Hobson. “What goes around comes around.”
Mr. Freitas made the motion and it passed unanimously. The next step is for the BPW to vote to accept having a liaison to the MRC, and then to vote for a BPW member to fill the slot.