Parry accuses BOS Chair of OML violation in response to Kolenda’s letter warning Parry about alleged harassment of Town employees

by beth on December 5, 2017

In August, David Parry was sent a letter stating that his access to Town property would be restricted based on purported, repeated harassment of Town employees. The letter was written by Dan Kolenda, in his role as Chair of the Board of Selectmen. Three months later, Parry responded with public accusations that Kolenda, and his board, violated the law.

Parry has filed a complaint with the Board of Selectmen alleging that Kolenda violated Open Meeting Laws and took steps to cover it up. The resident has made the complaint more public by circulating an email last week welcoming others to share the information. (Scroll down for links to all of the documents.)

Parry’s complaint centers around Kolenda’s letter, but includes additional accusations of impropriety by Kolenda and Town Administrator Mark Purple.

Included in it is a claim that Southborough’s Chief of Police confessed to Parry that he was instructed to use allegations against Parry to pressure him to “lower his vocal criticism of Kolenda.” That claim is refuted by the chief as fabricated.

Parry, a former selectman, claims that Kolenda didn’t have proper authority to send the warning letter. He further claims that the BOS technically held a meeting on the issue without notice. He argues that by members circulating written drafts of the letter, the board “deliberated” on the issue.

According to Parry’s argument that qualified as meeting. He follows that he was entitled to advance notice of the deliberation, allowing him to participate with counsel.

Parry’s documents indicate that he knows a complaint is meant to be filed within 30 days. But Parry further claims that Kolenda’s letter was intentionally written to obscure the violation. He points to that as the reason he wasn’t aware of the violation at the time and is entitled to file now.

The August 22nd letter from Kolenda warned Parry that his access to Town property would be restricted:

Your actions have created a hostile work environment, and that cannot be permitted to continue. Therefore, effective immediately, you will only be allowed on Town property to conduct your personal Town business, such as paying a bill, acquiring a permit, or obtaining public records. If you need to speak with a Town official or employee, it must be by appointment. No unscheduled visits to the Town House will be permitted. This does not prevent you from attending public meetings to be held in the Town House or any other Town building. If you choose to violate these conditions, the Police Department may be required to enforce them.

The restrictions were purportedly based on behavior by Parry prior to the letter:

We have received complaints from several Town employees and other Town officials about your unwelcome and threatening behavior exhibited by you towards them on multiple occasions.

According to both the letter, and Parry’s complaint, Chief Kenneth Paulhus met with Parry on August 4th about some of those incidents. The letter alleges that Parry continued this behavior between the 4th and 22nd.

In the attachment to his complaint, Parry says that in order to prove Kolenda’s accusation is accurate, the Town needs to provide witnesses to that behavior between the dates of August 8th (when he spoke at a public meeting**) and the 22nd, not prior or after.

In multiple sections of his complaint and attachment, Parry claims that Kolenda’s actions were motivated by bad blood and politics. That includes a claim that Purple used the police for political purposes on Kolenda’s behalf:

On August 4, Parry requested a meeting with the Police Chief, to report an instance of harassment of Parry by the police, and to find out who initiated this harassment … which the police refuse to reveal, thereby forcing Parry to pursuing other sources. This harassment occurred on July 29 at the Swap Shop. There are many witnesses and a photograph. At this meeting, the Police Chief unexpectedly raised other allegations, which were totally unrelated to the harassment of July 29. These allegations were elaborated on by the Chief. Parry strongly objected and immediately realized a pattern — that the records were inaccurate and the Chief had been misinformed. Parry told him so. After hearing the details, the Chief agreed he had been misinformed, and he apologized. Parry asked him what the REAL reason was for agreeing to this meeting. The Chief said he had met the Town Administrator to discuss Parry. He referred to the alleged violations in the police files and was instructed by the Administrator, to meet with Parry, bring up the allegations and thereby try to get Parry to lower his vocal criticism of Kolenda about removing the utility poles.

Chief Paulhus responded to my request for comment:

I am extremely disappointed that Mr. Parry has chosen to fabricate the events of the meeting we had in the presence of Lt. Sean James on August 4th at my request. A full report was left regarding the background and circumstances that took place during the meeting in the interview room at the Police Station. I look forward to speaking with any investigator who might have further inquiry into the matter.

I am not anticipating any further comment on this topic.

Parry made clear that he has spoken to someone with the Attorney General’s office about the incidents. And in an email he circulated*, he asserts:

Ultimately a decision will be made by the Attorney General. . . So let the facts be known, and let the AG take whatever action they consider appropriate.

But the item is not yet on the queue of complaints that the AG’s office is investigating. Open Meeting Law complaints must first be filed with the “public body” that allegedly conducted the violation. If Parry isn’t satisfied with the response, he is then entitled to file his complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Town Administrator Mark Purple confirmed that the complaint was received by the board and stated that Town Counsel is preparing a response.*** 

In his email, Parry makes clear his assumption that he won’t be satisfied with the board’s response:

Of course the Board of Selectmen have the right to respond, and they must, by law.

We will hear all kinds of excuses.

Parry has a history of public disputes with Town officials with claims and counter claims of deception.****

Below are relevant links to the current controversy:

*The email of November 28th gave permission for recipients to circulate it, referring to it as public information:

I have provided a copy of this legal complaint for you, because I know you are interested in local affairs and how our local government is being run.

It concerns how political opponents of official policies are harassed, silenced and sidelined, and how attempts are made to hide official actions against them.

I am filing this complaint reluctantly, but I have been left with no alternative except to take official action. To remain silent would be to feed the behavior, and would embolden the perpetrators. It cannot be allowed to continue, or repeated, and must be ended. . . 

Feel free to forward this entire package of attachments — to anyone you wish — because there is nothing to hide. It is fully public information, by law, and the AG will publish some of it officially.

**On August 8th, Parry presented his plan to move utility poles to the BOS. At that meeting, there was contentious back and forth about some of Parry’s behavior in leaving a voicemail with profanity on Selectman Brian Shea’s home phone and allegedly making verbal threats to Kolenda. (You can see that discussion here.) Parry seems to indicate that further action from the board should have only been based on anything that occurred after that time. And his complaint claims, “Over that period, Aug 8 – Aug 21, Parry does not recall speaking to any town employee or official on this matter.”

***I reached out to Kolenda by email as well on Sunday evening after learning about the complaint. As of the time of this post, there was no response. Nothing is specifically on the agenda for tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting. But the matter could come up under the either the Chair’s report or if raised in public comment.

****In 2014, there were accusations made by selectmen about Parry misrepresenting himself to state officials, which Parry refuted. That same spring, Parry and Kolenda had a public dispute through the blog when they both rain for the board. Accusations related to campaign signs and transparency around comments. (Parry made anonymous allegations about Kolenda posting signs prior to when he believed they were allowed by law. He questioned Kolenda’s integrity in the comments, then outed himself by referring to a voicemail he left for Kolenda.)

This past spring, when Parry ran again for selectman, he got in a dispute with Town officials about his campaign signs after complaints were lodged that Parry allegedly placed them in violation of rules. 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Southviller December 5, 2017 at 4:15 PM

I think I can hear the collective Southborough sigh of relief that Parry did not get elected to a seat of his own this past fall… Whether every single comment by either party is 100% accurate or not, when a trend of drama follows someone like Mr. Parry this closely, it tends to be no one’s fault but their own.

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2 David Parry December 5, 2017 at 9:47 PM

We will have to wait to see what the Attorney General has to say about the situation. It is the AG who makes the final decision, thank heavens. .

As to the Police Chief’s response, I am disgusted that our Police Dept has been dragged down into local politics, and ordered to do the dirty work for his superiors … Who are the Town Administrator and Mr Kolenda … He was literally instructed to convey a political message to me … to stop criticism of Mr Kolenda.

I filed this complaint reluctantly, because I was left with no alternative . Only the AG can end this bullying of residents who criticize political decisions, and the violation of Open Meeting laws.

I put my faith in the that decision.

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3 Louise Barron December 6, 2017 at 12:09 PM

Beth,
Mr. Parry is a former member of the Board of Selectmen. He does put forth good ideas and just ran for selectman earning hundreds of votes. The current BOS Chair, Mr. Kolenda, continues to try to defend his own questionable and controversial emails and behavior.

Southviller, you have a short memory. As for drama and “no one’s fault but their own,” the issue is the town generated controversies, not Parry. Look over to the right side of today’s webpage. The recent article leading the “MOST Comments” category is regarding the BOS chair himself, Mr. Kolenda, and the firestorm of controversy he created by his very recent and underhanded email attempt to sway the November 7th BOS election. He sent his own two emails (the second one adding the previously omitted candidate) to the public and, in my humble opinion, misused his position.

http://www.mysouthborough.com/2017/11/10/discord-over-bos-chairs-endorsement-of-all-but-one-candidate/

(Also, see excerpts of comments below on this same issue. *)

This matter is probably best handled by the AG’s office.

We are talking about a town government that has a long history of allegations of violating the public trust and shutting down public participation and public comment. They don’t want to hear the full pros and cons of matters before them. They want to further their agenda.

This town government has lost the support and public trust for good reason. They continue to run over the rights of ordinary citizens and various officials who work hard for this town. They try to silence them and run rough shod over citizen rights, various boards and committee’s legal obligations(?!!), and others on a regular basis.

There is also a long history of missteps and passing the buck – all disappointing to the public that they are supposed to serve. Here are just a few examples:

Missing the Safe Harbor deadline after phone calls from the State warning about the deadline (and look who’s defending that! ):

http://southborough.wickedlocal.com/article/20140509/NEWS/140505788

The town administrator, Mark Purple, who left Ashland for Southborough, had a 2015 lawsuit filed against him and others alleging inaction over allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct:

http://www.wickedlocal.com/article/20150207/NEWS/150207187

And look who is opining in the press about who should be the next chief of police: Yes folks, it’s the former pro tempore ZBA Chair(!), David Eagle, who moved out of town the day after approving a Comprehensive Permit on the largest and most controversial proposed development in town, Park Central – along with – the developer himself (?!!) William Depietri – as well as, get this, another sitting ZBA member on the same project, Leo Bartolini – all in the SAME press article – go figure??!! Of course this should be a completely independent process! All three in the same article??

http://www.wickedlocal.com/x1275650652/Southborough-police-chief-consultant-quits-after-internal-candidate-revived

Mr. Parry, it is against state ethics law for anyone holding a public seat to use public resources, including the Police Department, for harassment, for unlawful checks on residents (see recent case in Townsend in the following link), or political purposes. It cannot be done. It’s against the law.

http://www.thevalleydispatch.com/ci_30599100/townsend-police-chief-resigns-abruptly

It is a question as to whether or not Town counsel is a part of the problem: He allegedly has advocated legal positions that appear to be against Massachusetts General Law. This is hugely ironic since he is sworn to uphold the laws of Massachusetts. Meetings have been allegedly held with no quorum(?!!) and votes taken /decisions put out with allegedly no legal effect, all while he allegedly sits by with no notification to the public or discussion during the meeting. Then the taxpayer has to go to Superior Court to straighten it out. All while he gets paid the whole way on the taxpayer’s dime. Simply outrageous.

Overspending you ask? We are building a $30m police / fire building (the “Taj” ) for a town whose population is approximately 10,000 people. In the history of Massachusetts, who has ever heard of this??

http://www.mysouthborough.com/2017/02/07/letter-former-chair-on-public-safety-building-says-vote-no-on-article-1/

As Mr. Hamilton (the chair of the Public Safety Building committee who resigned!) stated in his recent comment to this blog, the best solution is at the ballot box and next town meeting.

But even better: fellow residents: stay alert, stay informed, stay interested and involved. Please attend meetings and pay attention in order to do something about all of this. It’s all about control. Control of town hall, your own local government. See you at the ballot box!

Footnote:
* Did Mr. Rooney endorse this email? Did he know of its content? Did he know it was to be sent before the election? What about the other candidates named in the first email? Were they aware that their names would be used in such a manner?
Mr. Kolenda’s emails do speak for themselves. Did he do anything wrong? The reader can be the judge: Clearly he chose to alter his first message and send it out as a revised second message later on the morning of the election, too late for some readers / voters.
Mr. Kolenda cut off public comment section of Wednesday’s BOS meeting and closed the meeting. Well here’s the balance of what was to be said, an opinion letter submitted to the BOS by a prominent, strong, articulate smart taxpayer:
Good Evening BoS,
I am writing to you to express my shock, dismay and feeling of disloyalty as I have been forwarded Selectmen Kolenda’s personal email promoting 3 “excellent” candidates for BoS. To my knowledge, there are 4 candidates. Regardless of Mr. Kolenda’s personnel and quite public dislike for Mr. Stivers, resorting to a tactic such as email to undermine a candidate shows significant bias against Mr. Stivers and extremely poor judgment.
Selectmen Kolenda’s communication effect publicly discredits Sam Stivers (by exclusion from the list of candidates) and shows a very childish display of bullying and a manipulative attempt to use his power and influence as Selectmen to sway a vote away from another eligible candidate.
My shock comes from Selectmen’s career path as a lawyer, one would think he would have thought twice, maybe three times before pressing send and yet he did not.
Having this in writing, in my opinion, shows his low level of integrity and lack of ethics. Apparently, there are no bylaws covering expected behavior of an elected official, but this behavior and action in my opinion demonstrates, lack of leadership, poor judgment and zero ethics. Is this behavior suitable for a Chair of the Board of Selectmen? I am disgusted by his decision to send this communication.
Mr. Kolenda you ought to be ashamed of yourself for attempting to sway a vote and trying to use a “thriving democracy” as a platform.

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4 louise barron December 6, 2017 at 5:24 PM

Mr. Parry was a former Selectman, due respect for serving this town. He is hardly unstable. Impassioned yes, vocal yes. Bananas no.

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5 Publius December 6, 2017 at 4:49 PM

And one has to wonder why anyone, in their right mind, would volunteer to serve the people of the town. It is easy for unstable individuals to make baseless claims under color of law. If baseless, the law must provide a remedy for those effected to seek redress. If current law does not provide a cause of action than the law must be amended. How many good people are going to be figuratively “run out of town” or off the BOS or other board or commission. Who in their right mind would volunteer for this?

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6 Lucy December 8, 2017 at 7:25 AM

Well 4 people ran for office. It seems like plenty of people would. Dan, Brian and Mark Purple or should I say Dipietri make sure they hand select ZBA by not telling anyone and not I bst it matters they vote them in.

Plenty of people will get involved. The good ol boy network needs to stop!

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7 beth December 8, 2017 at 11:01 AM

The ZBA opening was reannounced, and still only one candidate applied.

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8 Lucy December 7, 2017 at 4:17 PM

A lot of smoke downtown typically means there is fire. I don’t think the town is transparent at all. Lee Bartolini just ruled on a Depitrie case again saying the AG didn’t find anything but is willing to reopen at anytime. Lee is obviously a servant for Dipetri and not the town. Dan is supporting actions he shouldn’t be. Nobody who pays attention to what happens downtown trusts them. The overall public is more interested in popularity contests. The town Atty goes along with the behavior. It’s really unbelievable. Most recently I heard Bartolini trespassed on a citizens property in retaliation to comments made at public meeting. This is known by BOS Members and they do nothing. Conservation then fines the citizen. Lee remains in power? Clean it up Dan or please let someone else.

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