I'm Sorry, Stevie
Oh frabjous, frabjous day! Whoever would have thunk that on November 7 we would rout out of our state and federal offices so many botten rastards? The botten rastards' chickens are coming home to roost. Praise the Lord!
Now that we can breathe easier on those two fronts, let's turn our attention to another round of ferreting out some of the latest skullduggery in our own dooryard.
At the November 6, 2006 Board of Selectmen's meeting, a mean-spirited Troika—Steve Dean, Joan Funk, and Charles Wiebel—mounted the latest attempt to discredit selectmen chair, Paula Proulx. "Discredit" is a euphemism; it was more like a carefully-orchestrated, tar-and-feathering extravaganza. And the whole ten minutes played out like our very own morality play, custom fit for our happy hamlet.
[NOTE: present at the tar and feathering were Steve Dean, Joan Funk, Charles Wiebel, George Meyer, Lorraine Meyer, JoAnn Doke, Susan Loker, Sylvia Howard Arcouette, Rebecca Watson Howard, Marty Gilman's son Stacey, his wife, and their two kids. Lurking on the edges were Charlie King and Foster's Daily Democrat's John Quinn.]
At the start of the meeting, Paula invited public input. First up at the mike: STEVE DEAN. Usually Dean wants to talk about flags and crosswalks. But not this time. This time Dean asks if he could speak freely (moment of drama!), and is assured by Paula that he could.
Dean asks Paula how can she act as town administrator, considering that she is suing the town and all that.
PAUL PARKER sees where Dean is going and, in his polite way, says that the lawsuit is not "typical"—that what the four plaintiffs are looking for is justice—in the form of a declaratory judgment from the court, declaring that the ZBA didn't follow our own laws when it granted Meyer/EquiVise a special exception to put houses in the industrial zone on the highway, because our laws forbid doing that. [See "On the Matter of the Lawsuit" at the end of this piece.]
After Paul speaks truth to Dean and his question (a question someone might have gotten Dean up to because, remember, flags and crosswalks are Dean's usual concerns), JERRY McCARTHY says, in effect, that he's had it with all the harping on the lawsuit. He says the selectmen have a lot of work to do on the budget, and that the suit is now over, and out of Paul and Paula and everyone else's hands. The Supreme Court now is considering it, and that is that. Now let's wait for the decision. Jerry adds that Paula, meanwhile, is doing a great job administering the affairs of the town.
Dean escalates to near high dudgeon, thinking he is gonna butt heads with Jerry. (Big mistake!) Dean interrupts Jerry, who is answering Dean's own question about being able to say what you want at the BS meetings. Jerry is saying that anyone can say anything he wants, anywhere, anytime. Not listening, and interrupting Jerry's reassurance, Dean says, "You're talking over me."
Jerry, his patience taxed, says, "I'm sorry, Stevie.I didnt talk over you, I answered you." [Go Jerry, Go!] And finally Dean skulks away, though not before getting in a last pout about reserving his right to say something more about all this after the suit is settled. (While he is waiting for the Supreme Court's decision, perhaps Dean should take the trouble to actually read and comprehend the lawsuit.)
[The Dean/selectmen transcript is worth reading!]
Next to the mike comes Phoenix JOAN FUNK, the queen of the night's Troika, to add the dunking stool to the heckle-Paula torture kit. It is a nearly quintessential performance for the persistent Phoenix, who sinks her badger teeth into the selectmen, until they finally finish her off—at least till the next time she rises, yet again, from the ashes.
Phoenix starts off nit-picking at Jerry for referring to Paula as the "interim" town administrator. She insists she was never called that when she was the chair of the selectmen in the hiatus between Slippery Ern Creveling and the Unctuous Paul Weston.
But Jerry says that Paula is doing just what she (the Phoenix) did during the hiatus between Slippery Ern and Unctuous Paul.
[As the transcript shows, when Dean was tightening the screws, it was Paula who actually used the word "interim"—a perfectly good word that says exactly what she has been "acting" as, and capably so, since mid-August, when Weston failed to get himself approved as full-time town administrator, after having put in two probationary stints at the job. After all, a town administrator exists to assist the selectmen in running the town, to ease their work load. What Paula is doing is precisely one of her duties as a selectman, and as chair of the board, she has taken on the brunt of the work load.]
But Phoenix continues to harp on the word "interim," saying she was never called that.
Jerry lets her have it, telling Phoenix to call what Paula is doing whatever she wants to call it.
But does the Phoenix vaporize back into the embers again? No such luck. She makes another stab at nailing Paula. What's the holdup, she asks, in getting a new town administrator?
The selectmen tell her hiring a new one is on the table, but Phoenix insists that the town has important biz to conduct, and we need a new town administrator.
Slightly shifting shape yet again, our dogged Phoenix next asks when they intend to get a new town administrator.
Jerry says that they had a good possibility for town administrator, but the applicant withdrew.
Someone in the "audience" pipes up, "Matt Scruton?" and Jerry confirms that, saying it was known all over town that Matt Scruton had applied for the job, and then withdrew his application just a week ago.
[What is with these guys? First George Meyer quits the board, saying it was no longer "any fun" to be selectman. Then Marty Gilman quits, giving no reason; then he un-quits, saying his fans besieged him, begging him to reconsider, and by golly gee, he would stick it out till his term was up. Then Matt Scruton applies and un-applies for the job of town administrator.]
Paul Parker points out: "So we're back to square one." Paul adds that since they didn't have a full board tonight [Bill Tsiros is absent], it would be better to wait till they did before deciding what to do now about a town administrator.
Still the Phoenix persists, her talons in deep now.
The Phoenix's pecking is all too much for Jerry, who says he doesn't mind taking a spanking for the stuff the selectmen do, but Phoenix and Co. should wait till the selectmen do something bad before delivering the spanking.
Says the Phoenix: "My intention isn't to spank anyone, but I would like as a citizen to know what is going on here."
Jerry says, "As soon as we're able to tell everybody we will do that."
At that, the Phoenix skulks back into her lair.
[ To fully appreciate how neatly Jerry slammed his old nemesis, the Phoenix, you really gotta check out the entire juicy Phoenix/Selectmen transcript.]
Next up at the mike is the remaining prosecutor in the Troika, CHARLES ("Gollum") WIEBEL.
Addressing Paula directly, Wiebel says, "Just to have you clarify the situation. You are acting as interim Town Administrator, and also as chair of the selectmen. Are you being paid as interim town administrator?"
This is too much even for patient Paula, who replies, "No. Course not. No. Haven't got a dime for this."
Gollum slinks away.
The CCC's take on the troika's tar and feathering
And as Wiebel slinks, we see the three mean-spirited Troika-Torturers aren't half as clever as they think they are, and are no match for our three White Hat Selectmen, who are neither owned by nor bought by anyone in this town. No Abramoffs conniving in the back rooms with Paula, Paul, and Jerry.
But back to Wiebel and his third nail: his disingenuous question aimed to prove (Ahah!) that Paula Proulx is doing something crooked. He is out to prove that Paula has a conflict of interest—i.e., asking if she, as a sitting selectmen, has taken any money for acting as interim town administrator.
But here's the reality of the situation, which only the Black Hats apparently don't "get":
Our former town administrator, Paul Weston, failed to meet the selectmen's expectations as a town administrator, and anyone around town tuned in to the scuttlebutt has heard bits and pieces of why he failed to do so. Weston had two six-month probationary periods. The selectmen were very forgiving and patient with him, hoping that he would, in time, get up to speed. But he didn't, and they decided to not hire him on permanently. That is one of the things we elect (and expect) our selectmen to do—to decide who will work in the best interests of the town.
We do not have a recent history of picking the best town administrators. Slippery Ern resigned under less than happy circumstances. After the failed Weston regime, the selectmen—at least the three White Hats—have been in no great rush to hire just any old available body to be town administrator since, after all, that job carries a salary of $60,000 or more, plus bennies. Wouldn't they be irresponsible if they were to rush, taking on someone less than competent, less than very well suited to the town? In fact, when you think about it, it's good thing Matt Scruton withdrew his application for the job, since he might well be a little nervous about his critical, pivotal role throughout the ZBA/Meyer/EquiVise mess, in particular at the March 14, 2005 meeting of the selectmen.
Paula has cheerfully been administering the affairs of the town in the interim between one full time pricey town administrator and the next, and has done so according to law—in line with her duties as chair of the selectmen. She would be derelict in her duty if she failed to administer the affairs of the town. (And talk about a powerhouse: On top of slaving away for the town, Paula runs a business that is open 67 hours a week.)
Funk the Phoenix questions Paula's assumption of that duty, even though the Phoenix herself acted as interim town administrator in the interim between Slippery Ern and Unctuous Paul. Funk even suggests (in her persistent prattling on November 6, 2006) that since she herself was not "interim" town administrator between Slippery and Unctuous, and since Paula by her own admission is "interim" town administrator—why then, perhaps Paula ought to recuse herself as chairman of the board of selectmen. Funk must dwell in Lewis Carroll Land, for she, like Humpty Dumpty, defines a word however she wants to. For her, the perfectly good and understandable word, "interim" is imbued with evil undertones—at least when it applies to Paula. Of course, what the Phoenix and her gang really want is to drive Paula off the board, perhaps because they simply can't stand Paula's high level of competence, her true dedication to our town, and her unquestioned honesty.
Maybe the Phoenix wasn't called interim town administrator for a reason. Can you imagine her directing the department heads? After all, how many times have we heard her (when she was selectman) gigglingly deferring to all those male experts who know more than she could ever possibly know [titter, titter] about all that sewer plant and water mains stuff? More likely, the Phoenix didn't actually do squatjackshit compared to what Paula is doing now as interim town administrator, despite the Plaque George ("It's no fun any more") Meyer bestowed upon the Phoenix on Hay Day, 2005—a plaque honoring the Phoenix for her wonderful job as interim town administrator between Slippery Ern and Unctuous Paul.
Paula Proulx has been acting as town administrator since mid-August. After Weston left, the position was advertised immediately; no sterling candidates appeared out of the murk. While the selectman take sufficient time to find a truly competent person to administer the town's affairs, the Ship of Our Town is in good and capable hands, with all department heads and town hall staff happy as pigs in shit. And Paula is doing it all better than Weston did it. If you doubt that, just ask the department heads and the staff at the town offices. What better deal could this town possibly have?—the brainy, honest chair of our selectmen—a home girl to boot—acting, by all accounts, as an efficient town administrator would act (if we were lucky and got a good one), and doing it in half the time, and without any compensation. Paula is beholden to no one but the people of our town, and acts on behalf of all of us. She proves her worth time and again. And she is one of us, and has her finger on the pulse of the town.
We can't, according to law (RSA 669:7), have Paula as both selectman and permanent town administrator. But as Norm Russell pointed out at the November 13, 2006 meeting, there was a time when Farmington didn't even have town administrators, and seemed to get along fairly well. Of course, a good town administrator is worth the salary we've been paying, and perhaps even more. But why rush to get a new one? Surely we want one as good as Paula.
It's interesting to note that throughout the November 6, 2006 tarring and feathering and dunking and pressing with stones, Marty ("I once was lost but now I'm found") Gilman, having just un-quit his quitting of a week ago, did not enter into the response to the Troika—did not have one word to say in defense of Paula. Instead, he kept his face pretty much down, studying his papers. He knows she is a damn fine interim town administrator, and might have said so—might have defended her against the attacks of the Troika.
The Black Hats have their fangs bared, determined to get rid of Paula Proulx one way or the other. So they try to make out that she is a Town Official on the Take—try to paint her as corrupt. (That in itself is a hoot.) Meanwhile, the selectmen have their hands full enough now in budget-crunch time, without having to answer at every single meeting the same few petty questions from the Hounds of Hell. Our selectmen take a lot of grief for their paltry annual stipend of—what is it now?—fifteen hundred bucks? Would the Hounds of Hell (those of them that actually work) take that kind of guff on their salaries?
March elections are less than four months away. Between now and then, we can count on the Black Hats to come up with more amusing tricks to try to discredit Paula, Paul, and even Jerry. But come March, the people of Farmington will rout the rastards, just as we did on the state and national level, on November 7, 2006.
Because it isn't just on the state level or on the national level that we have rastards requiring routing. But at least our rastards are right where we can keep an eye on them—right there on Channel 26, Monday nights. And the rastards better watch their backs, because the routing continues!
On the matter of the lawsuit
Now it is time to reiterate, yet again, that Joan Funk and Matt Scruton, along with former town administrator, Ernie Creveling, told the town's legal counsel, Mitchell and Bates, to spend the town's money to defend the town in the law suit brought against it by the Russells and our two selectmen, Paul and Paula. But why did Funk and Scruton think they had to spend our money to defend the town against . . . against . . . against what? The Court telling the town it must abide by its own laws?
What the four appellants are seeking by bringing the lawsuit against the town is a declaratory judgment from the court on the matter of whether the town of Farmington busted its own laws in granting Meyer/EquiVise a special exception to put houses in the industrial zone. The four appellants are seeking no money, and therefore no money ought to have been spent from the town's legal funds to counter perceived money-grubbing on the part of the appellants.
Yet, in knee-jerk fashion, Funk and Scruton hit the terrorist-alert button and said, "Get our lawyer. We gotta spend money to defend against this suit." What did Funk and Scruton think they were spending the money FOR? And yet, Funk is among those who vilify Paul and Paula for joining the suit, and who wrongly blame them for the town's having to spend legal-fund money to defend the suit. So, when everyone comes at Paula about her conflict of interest, they refuse to recognize that she and her colleague Paul, and the Russells, are bringing suit to make a wrong right—not to get a farthing of the town's money.
If Dean and Funk and Wiebel and all the rest who either don't actually know what the suit is about or don't care what it is about, but instead persist in asking, "How much is this suit costing the town?" and then want to crucify Paula and Paul about that twelve grand (more or less) that the suit has "cost the town," they should put their collective pea brains together, maybe come up with one whole brain, and then they might be able to grasp that Joan Funk and Matt Scruton took it upon themselves to tell "legal"—unnecessarily—that they should do something (like, take our money) to "defend us" against that law suit. Who was tending that store? It boggles the mind.
Here is something to consider: The Rebirth of the Opera House wasn't the cleanest operation. Some of us questioned what appeared to be either a possible shifting around of town funds, or an outright misappropriation of funds for the first leg of the "town side" of the project. Then, at last March's town meeting in The Born-Again Opera House, some of us got hissed and booed for presuming to question the eagerness of those in the hall who were chomping at the bit to raise and appropriate another $100K-plus for the "town" side of the project (on top of the $40 to $50 grand of possibly shifted-around funds we'd already kicked in). And fair numbers in town wondered how it came to pass that the self-appointed Town Hall Committee made the decision on behalf of the town to get rid of and trash the bleachers. But all that is, we hope, behind us now. (Although we have yet to find out what a balcony sprinkler system and a safe fire escape will cost the taxpayers of this town if they want to sit up in the safe-one-minute, not-safe-the-next balcony.)
Yet, the Meyer-EquiVise matter still looms large. It is the big elephant that has probably caused as much contention of long-standing duration in Farmington as any other matter that has ever come before the town. And it amounts to this: George Meyer and EquiVise, and their Minions, wanted to do something that is against our zoning laws—the laws that the people of the town voted to put in place. And they apparently figured they could do what they wanted because they are who they are. And once the Minions met with questions, and opposition to their project, they snubbed any opponents—some of whom were their former friends—on the street and in other public places. They demonized anyone who dared question their might and their right to bust our town's laws. They talk about "getting along," and yet at selectmen's meetings, they hiss and boo anyone they don't like, interrupting their perceived "enemies" who are speaking before the selectmen and the town, and acting nasty to anyone who gets in the way of what they want.
In the face of all that unfriendly behavior, those in opposition to the Meyer/EquiVise scheme to violate our land-use law have acted, for the most part, with decency, and the White Hat selectmen—most notably appellants Paula Proulx and Paul Parker—have acted, in the face of considerable abuse, with seemingly endless patience and good grace toward the petty accusations and slights.
Meanwhile, the Minions continue to behave like big spoiled bratty babies who can't get their way.