Weishan reappointed to Historical Commission after forced absence

by beth on September 11, 2020

Two years after the Board of Selectmen refused to reappoint Michael Weishan to the Historical Commission, the board voted to reappoint him.

Weishan told the board that his application to serve was at the request of others. He noted that he had turned it down at first, but relented after multiple requests. 

The former member said the Commission needed him now for “historical continuity”.

In 2019 the Commission mourned the loss of long time member, Kate Matison. Weishan referred to her as the member who drove and shepherded many of the Commission’s initiatives. This spring, Chair Joe Hubley retired from the post after many years of service.

Weishan stated his new goal is to serve in a transitional role, helping to bring in a new crop of members. (Note: Even with Weishan’s appointment, the Commission has two current vacancies.)

Back in 2018, Selectmen voted to not allow Weishan to continue on the Commission that already had two vacancies. The recommendation was raised by Selectman Brian Shea who objected to the “tone” of emails Weishan directed to community members.

Selectmen referred to his communications as inappropriate and disrespectful. That summer, Weishan made a qualified public apology that didn’t appease the board.

In 2018, Weishan apologized for the tone but stood by the accuracy. Asked if he would do anything differently in hindsight, he struck a different note this week. He indicated to the board that he should have “just shut up”. That was also his stated intent for potential future disputes with other boards.

Selectman Lisa Braccio and Chair Marty Healey made clear that wasn’t the response they were looking for. Braccio emphasized he should “never shut up” when he disagrees with something. Healey assured that he isn’t just looking for volunteers that vote the way they think selectmen want or go with the flow. 

Braccio was the only selectmen involved in both the 2018 vote and this week’s. Back then she voted against keeping him, saying that she had fought in 2010 for the board to uphold a promise made that she was now compelled to uphold herself:

Courtesy, respect and open dialogue are prerequisites for continued membership on any board and that there is no room for compromise

Based on that, Braccio still had reservations about reappointing Weishan this week. But she noted that no one was more qualified than him for the role. (In addition to serving six years on the SHC, he has been the President of the Southborough Historical Society.)

Healey stated he was in support of appointing Weishan. But he did note his disapproval of a specific action Weishan took in 2018, filing an ethics complaint against Shea. (It was filed by the Historical Commission, including Weishan, in the days between the board’s vote and the lapse of Weishan’s term. In 2019, Shea publicly stated that the Ethics Commission ultimately ruled in his favor.) 

The Chair noted that it was within anyone’s rights to file a complaint when they think it is warranted. But he opined that they should have first come to the board with their concerns, as loudly as they needed to, before utilizing tools outside of the Town.

The communications that prompted Weishan being called before the board in 2018 related to the proposed demolition of a circa 1895 home at 28 Boston Road. (The house has since been demolished. The land is now the site of an under construction duplex development.) 

The project came before the Historical Commission via the Town’s Demolition Delay Bylaw. Weishan objected to a deal made by the abutter, St. Anne’s Church, to give William Poutre more frontage to enable his planned duplex development. Shea, a member of the parish, objected to the accusatory tone of Weishan’s emails to church officials and Poutre.

This week, Weishan reminded selectmen that it had been the first project that triggered the Commission’s oversight under the bylaw. At the time, members hadn’t undergone training by Town Counsel on their role yet. He also referred to a lot of big personalities involved. Looking back, Weishan focused on poor communications for problems between him and the Board of Selectmen.

At the time of the discussion, Shea told the board that he had he had cleared his ability to participate in the vote by talking with the state Ethics Commission and filing appropriate papers. The Historical Commission’s subsequent filing claimed that Shea didn’t disclose enough about his involvement with the church and behind the scenes on the dispute between Poutre and the Commission. According to Shea’s 2019 statement, the Ethics Commission didn’t agree that there had been a violation.

This year, Shea has recused himself from all selectmen discussions around reappointing Weishan. The vote to reappoint Weishan was 4-0.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carol September 14, 2020 at 6:48 PM

Well, I guess everyone deserves a second chance….but when you can’t even reply to emails regarding the historical commission, the very commission you want to be part of again……what does that say? It is very arrogant and disrepectful. It takes two minutes to respond to a one question email, which was sent more than once. My neighbor also emailed him with no response.

I can only imagine his “tone” in the emails he chooses to reply to. One that was directed to community members, which was disrespectful and of concern to the board. All of this speaks volumes about his character.

The town must be desperate for members on these boards.

Reply

2 whims September 16, 2020 at 5:02 PM

Desperate for people?

You may recall, the only way to gain membership on the boards & commissions is through BOS “approval” (political) or appointment by the town Moderator (again, political).

The overwhelming majority of these board & committee people are NOT Elected – they’re Selected.

New thinking, fresh ideas, etc. need not apply!!!

Reply

3 beth September 16, 2020 at 5:17 PM

Selectmen do interview people before appointing them for most committees. But in the past 7 years I’ve been covering Town politics I haven’t seen any applicants rejected by selectmen for a position on a board with as many or more vacancies as applicants. It’s only when there are fewer applicants than openings that selectmen choose who to select.

There have also been rare cases like the Weishan one where they chose not to allow someone to continue serving. And before someone rebuts, I’ll note that the board did choose to not seat people on a PILOT Committee. But that was a strategy decision where the board opted not to cede control of negotiations to a committee.

If you are aware of an instance where selectmen left vacancies rather than seating a volunteer whose viewpoint was different than theirs, please correct me.

It is true that the Moderator’s appointments are a much less transparent process and he has chosen to intentionally leave vacancies on Advisory.

Reply

4 Kelly Roney September 15, 2020 at 8:44 PM

Happy to have Michael back. His work on Historical is very valuable.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: