Troika Axes Anderson


1. a Russian carriage or wagon drawn by a team of three horses abreast.  2. a team of three horses driven abreast.  3. any group of three persons, nations, etc., acting equally in unison to exert influence, control, or the like.

The Random House Dictionary, 1966
Funk Scruton Elliott

On April 28, 2003 the three new selectmen, Joan Funk, Barry Elliott, and Matt Scruton, (AKA The Troika) voted to not reappoint Brad Anderson to the Planning Board.

Before their vote to kick Anderson off the Planning Board, the three had in hand a letter from the acting chair of the board, Jim Horgan. In his letter [scanned], Horgan heaps lavish praise on Brad and his knowledge and his expertise. Then he goes on to level unsubstantiated charges against Brad, citing "perceptions" of conflict of interest, etc.

By way of rebuttal, two members of the CCC wrote a letter to the selectmen in which they substantiate, in detail, the many positive things Brad Anderson has done for our town - all, it cannot be stressed enough, without any financial gain for himself. Both letters are part of the public record, and may be viewed at the town offices.

It helps to read these letters in order to understand what followed.

The next thing to read is the portion of the minutes of the April 28 selectmen's meeting, in which the selectmen gave their "reasons" for not reappointing brad. you can read the full minutes on the town's site, or you can read just the relevant portion, along with an extracted, capsule summary of the "reasons".

What followed is this: at the May 12, 2003 selectmen's meeting, we asked Barry Elliott and Joan Funk what specific reasons they could give for not reappointing Anderson to the Planning Board. Barry Elliott said he was a "generalist" and couldn't give specifics. Joan Funk, when reminded that she had never been to any Planning Board meeting in order to observe for herself Anderson's activities on that board, said she voted to not reappoint Anderson based on "hearsay." Though Matt Scruton was not asked to give specifics, he did, in effect, previously say to Anderson that the fix was in against Anderson and nothing Brad could have said would have changed the Troika's mind.

And then there is this: the Selectmen set a policy: each of the candidates for appointment or reappointment to the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Conservation Commission should be "interviewed" by the selectmen. At the April 28 meeting, Anderson was "interviewed" and not reappointed, but Don McVane was not even present to be interviewed, yet was appointed. On May 12 when she was asked how she could appoint McVane without interviewing him, Funk said she knew he was worthy and didn't need to interview him. It is a mystery why Scruton, who had never seen McVane in action, voted to appoint him.

On a related point: the Troika said they would solicit recommendations for appointments from the Chairmen of the other boards. It is apparent they took the "advice" of Planning Board acting chairman Jim Horgan (Norm Russell was still chair at the time) to can Anderson, but it is not clear whether they required the advice of the chair when on May 12 they reappointed Bill Tsiros who has been most conspicuous for his absence from Planning Board meetings.

In canning Anderson (arguably one of the most informed, energetic, brainy, tireless volunteers we've ever seen on one of the town boards) the Troika cited his "conservationist" sympathies, as if implying that when it comes to looking after the interests of the town, conservationists are the equivalent of communists. In their anticonservationist zeal, the Troika then created a new alternate position on the Conservation Commission and appointed Craig Lancey, a developer, to it. As chairman of the Conservation Commission, Anderson, writing to the Selectmen regarding the candidates, recommended against appointing Lancey to the Conservation Commission, and a reading of his comments will show that Anderson does give specifics. But apparently his recommendations were ignored. It should be noted that Anderson is responsible for reviving and bringing new vitality to what had been a virtually dead Conservation Commission.

So it seems that the Troika doesn't want a conservationist on the planning board, but eagerly appointed a foe of conservation to the Conservation Commission.

Later on in the meeting, Anderson pointed out to the selectmen that they did not have the legal power to pack the Conservation Commission by creating new alternate positions. Exactly what the Board of Selectmen has done about this is not yet clear, but apparently they have acceded to the view that the appointment was null and void.

Also it should be noted that after canning Anderson, the Troika appointed to full membership on the Planning Board Ann Alexander , sister to and employee of one of the area's largest developers, Packy Campbell. But this appointment is apparently not considered a "conflict of interest." And not incidentally, Selectman Elliott once said at a Planning Board meeting that he was "against open space." It would be interesting to ask him what, exactly, he means by that, since it is hard to imagine that in the face of the paving over of America, the inexorable march of development in our town, that anyone could be "against" open space.

Brad Anderson is not a member of the CCC. He tries to be apolitical and non-factional. For his own opinion, see his Community Commentary published in Foster's Daily Democrat on May 20, 2003.