Testy moments at last night’s candidate forum

The campaign between incumbent Sal Giorlandino and challenger John Rooney has seemed largely civil up until this point, but last night the gloves came off. At a Meet the Candidates Forum hosted at the Southborough Library, each candidate for Selectman questioned the other’s leadership skills, and Giorlandino accused Rooney of orchestrating a negative Internet campaign against him.

John Rooney

“I am not now, nor will I ever be a politician,” Rooney told the standing room only crowd. “I don’t believe the position of selectman is a political position. I believe it’s a management position. The biggest difference between myself and Mr. Giorlandino is leadership style.”

“Right now in town we have a leadership style that hires lawyers, that investigated eight department heads as a result of a conversation that happened after work at a pizza place.”

“John, I find it difficult for you to criticize me about leadership when you walked out on the police chief search committee,” Giorlandino said, referring to Rooney’s decision last fall to resign from the committee in charge of interviewing police chief candidates. “Tonight I am hearing that I’m some kind of monster. That’s what you’re painting me as.”

A few minutes later while answering a question from the audience, Rooney told Giorlandino that he doesn’t consider him a “monster.”

“Then tell your supporters to stop posting the things you’re posting on the Internet,” Giorlandino interrupted. When Rooney denied instructing his supporters to make negative comments, Giorlandino said, “I have a feeling they’re doing it at your behest,” prompting an outcry from some audience members.

Most of the debate was spent dissecting the Southborough Eight investigation, the Marty investigation, and the police chief search process … and, really, there’s so much to say on those three topics alone that I’m going to dedicate a separate post to them. Check back later for that.

Other topics that came up included the stabilization fund, building a commercial tax base, support for the schools, and whether seniors should be exempted from future Prop 2-1/2 overrides. I’ll take each in turn.

Sal Giorlandino

Tapping into the stabilization fund
Giorlandino said the stabilization fund should be used in emergencies, not to fund regular budget items. “We only have $400K left. What are we going to do next year?” he said. “That discussion needs to happen now.” Giorlandino said the town needs to come up with “creative ways” to deal with the purchase of capital items like rebuilding or renovating the police station.

For his part, Rooney said he voted with Town Meeting this year to tap into the stabilization fund to avoid a tax increase. “We got a one-year pass,” he said. “Next year there will be hard decisions. I would not recommend dipping into the stabilization fund next year.”

Increasing commercial property taxes
An audience member asked whether the town could increase it’s revenue by setting a higher tax rate for commercial properties like those along Route 9.

Rooney said voters should be given the option of increasing the commercial tax rate to get businesses “to pay their due.”

Giorlandino said he’s very concerned about having a tax base that’s exclusively dependent on residential properties, but that the Board of Assessors has looked into a higher commercial tax rate and it wouldn’t actually bring in that much more money for the town.

Supporting the schools
Rooney said that when it comes to doing what’s best for the schools, he would listen to the recommendations of the elected school committee. “Just pouring and pouring in more money doesn’t make a school system better,” he said.  “There’s a limited pot of money to go around each year. I believe the money is better spent on education than on outside lawyers.”

Giorlandino said he has a good relationship with school committee members. He said there should be a level playing field for the schools and the town departments. While recognizing that the schools play a “unique role” in town because they educate our future generations, Giorlandino said, “If we’re going to ask for belt-tightening, we should ask it of all.”

Exempting seniors from future tax increases
Both candidates agreed that the fiscal outlook for the coming year is grim. Given the possibility of a Prop 2-1/2 override next year, an audience member asked if residents of Southborough’s over-55 communities should be exempted from the tax increase because they use fewer town services than other residents.

“I don’t think we could do that legally,” Giorlandino said. “I view this community as a whole. It’s open to debate who’s contributing and who’s participating. It’s a loaded issue.”

Rooney said other towns are looking into similar proposals. “I would be in favor of it if it’s determined to be constitutional,” he said. “It’s all about fairness.”

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Moore
13 years ago

Ed note: This comment has been removed at the author’s request.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago

I am supporting John Rooney for Selectmen.

Speaking only for myself, I can assure Mr. Giorlandino that I have never sought Mr Rooney’s review, permission, approval, or blessing for anything I have posted on these pages. My words, for better and worse, are my own and no one else’s. Anyone who knows me knows that the notion that I would seek approval from Mr. Rooney or anyone else before using my free speech rights is silly.

Nor do I consider Mr. Giorlandinoa monster, quite the contrary; he has a long track record of selfless service to the town which is to be respected. I was impressed with him in his role on the Zoning Board of Appeals the few times I saw him in action.

However, long service and effectiveness in one role has not translated in to success on the Board of Selectmen. From Marty to the Southborough 8 to yesterdays attempt to silence critics Mr. Giorlandino has displayed a propensity for silencing dissent which, regrettably for him, continues to backfire.

Mark Ford
13 years ago

I too am supporting Mr. Rooney, for the reasons which have ben so clearly articulated on this board and elsewhere. Like Al Hamilton, I do not consider Mr. Giorlandino a monster–anyone who serves the town as long as he has deserves our thanks.

I have neither been acting on Mr. Rooney’s orders nor his behest–on the occasions that I rise to comment, it’s because I either feel I have something to add, or feel so strongly that I hit “submit.”

13 years ago

Mr. Giorlandino clearly excelled at last night’s forum. He had answers to questions that were based on experience and a familiarity with our town’s processes. Mr. Rooney was good at the “no answer, answer” and is clearly not prepared to serve in this capacity. He offered very little detail on his positions or actual examples of how he would address the town’s challenges going forward. Lots of vague generalities, innuendo about his opponent and tidbits that voters like to hear. I think he means well, but that there is no substitute for experience and he clearly has none. This is too crucial a time for our town to take a risk on someone with no prior interest in government or public service.

I am also not impressed that his one “try” at public service resulted in his walking out on the committee very early on. He can try to rationalize it any way he likes by diverting attention to the failings of the process, but no process is perfect and he basically quit when things didn’t go his way. The BoS appointed him, gave him a chance to serve and he basically gave it back. Why does he want it now?

Lastly, I find it troubling that so much of Mr. Rooney’s campaign seems to hinge on the “marty” and town employee controversies. I am not willing to judge anyone based on two incidents about which we know so little. I think there is as much chance that the BoS has been acting in our best interests as not. I hear lots of people claiming loudly that they are condemning Mr. Giorlandino based on those issues alone and yet I hear no one offering any proof that they were handled improperly. If you ask me, the whole thing smells worse for the town employees than for the BoS. I can much more easily imagine a small group of town employees overstepping the bounds of their professional conduct policy than I can see any member of the BoS wanting to be involved in this kind of controversy.

I will be supporting Mr. Giorlandino in the upcoming election and am very glad that I attended the event last night. Thanks to the library for hosting it.

Michael Moore
13 years ago
Reply to  Attendee

Hello Attendee,

I think you may be missing an important element of Mr. Rooney’s bid. He is presenting himself as someone who provides different style of leadership from Mr. Giorlandino. This idea of “style” presupposes that how a person does something is as important as what they do.

For example, Mr. Giorlandino accused Mr. Rooney of having his supporters post political blurbs on this website, possibly anonymously, and represent them as independent opinions. I think we can all agree that this would be a crass and obnoxious thing for either candidate to do, yet people are eager to have the candidates express their views openly and candidly, in this forum or any other.

The difference between a cheap political ploy and genuine expression can be difficult to pin down, certainly it can be hard to distinguish between the two. I think that Mr. Giorlandino is wrong in thinking that Mr. Rooney would stoop to such a thing, but it does say something about how important style is to all of us.

Mark Ford
13 years ago
Reply to  Attendee

I wasn’t able to attend last night, and your comments don’t help much. Could you please be specific, and avoid the “vague generalities” you complain about?

I do think the “Marty” and “Southborough 8” issues are important, as they speak to the temper of the BOS these days. Even Sal’s contention that those who post on boards are acting on John Rooney’s behest is illuminating—executive sessions, lawyers, hints of conspiracy…not the open gov’t I deserve. There are many other examples, by the way.

People of good intent can disagree on issues, and I do disagree with the BOS on many–the disposition of the stablilization fund (I’d rather keep teachers,library services, etc. than hold the taxpayer’s money in an account with no provable benefit), paying more than mutually-agreed-upon contracts stipulate (as in the Police) while hammering the Library, which has seen demonstrable increases in use…it goes on and on. Even small decisions the BOS makes–such as not allowing the Advisory web pages to be linked to from the official Southborough home page–are cause for concern.

The “Marty” and “Southborough 8” issues are clear and recent examples, but there are many more. We need fresh leadership in this town, and I believe John Rooney can provide it.

Mark Ford
13 years ago
Reply to  Mark Ford

I would also add that supporting a candidate anonymously might be considered damning by faint praise…

Harold Raez
13 years ago

The best part of the debate was when Mr. Giorlandino asked Mr. Hubley “what kind of selectman do you think I am?” Do you think Mr. Giorlandino knew the answer in advance or was he surprised? My guess is that he knew, especially since so many people saw them huddling before the meeting.

Honesty, Mr. Rooney, does not usually win elections. It wins everything else. Good luck.

55 this year
13 years ago

I’m a little confused. I thought everyone used the town services, but I guess I must be wrong. The over 55 communities must be able to handle all of the town services themselves. Oh,…. but I’m probably wrong on this… When you think about it, they’ll probably call the fire department if theres a fire or medical emergency, and the police if necessary. They’ll probably even use the library on occasion, and maybe even drive on safe and plowed roads if given the opportunity.

Well, you know, they must want a tax break because of the cost of the schools. Let’s see…. their kids have graduated from school, and they don’t want to pay any more. They’ve done their part…..and now it’s time for everyone to support them. After all, even though they’re living in $500K + homes, are in their prime earning years, and have megabucks in the bank, you can never sock away money away for retirement or trips to Florida.

I’m 55 this year, and have two kids in the schools, third grade and sixth. They are getting a great education…..much better than we received when we were young.
If they work hard in school and do really well when they grow up (assuming there are still any jobs in this country), they might actually have some money left over after paying our social security, national debt, and health care expenses.

I have no problem paying my fair share of taxes, and when my kids are out of the schools, you can be sure I’ll never ask for a “special” tax break.

Kelly Roney
13 years ago
Reply to  55 this year

Amen. Trying to exempt over-55 homeowners from property tax increases is a terrible idea – and I say that having only 3 years to go.

Need-based tax breaks for seniors are already in place (though they’re not always fully funded). By and large, older people have greater assets than younger people and in fact they are already heavily subsidized federally by Social Security and Medicare (as they should be).

When the 55-plus zoning bylaw passed (something like 15 years ago), I wondered if seniors with no ties to the community might change our common commitment to the community. This looks like the beginning of that. We should nip it in the bud.

Jane Smith
13 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Well put. Totally agree.

Pat Quill
13 years ago

I can’t help but find it disturbing that Mr. Giorlandino accuses Mr. Rooney of instructing
his supporters to make negative comments within this forum. Give me a break. Quite
frankly, I can’t believe we need to listen to this “grade school” behavior when we are
in the midst of serious town issues.

It is probable, and more than likely, we could see future tax payer money going to fund additional “witch hunts” should Mr. Giorlandino remain in his current position. I find it comparable to “bullying” mentality and it has no place in this town or any town when there are more important issues staring us right in the face. We have plenty on our plate (shrinking revenue, possible higher taxes, teacher cuts, dept. cuts, depleting stabilization fund, need I go on…..) and this town’s atmosphere has the potential to be acrimonious at best………..we need leaders to pull us together to make even tougher decisions in the coming years, not act the victim and bully everyone with legal threats. That is not leadership and that will not move us forward or through these demanding times.

Let’s get on with the business of things…….please.

Lisa Matthew
13 years ago

Seeing this debate in person made me confident in my vote for Monday. Thank you Susan, for giving us a forum to discuss what some would prefer we not discuss.

Linda F. Shaffer
13 years ago

My name is Linda Shaffer, I reside in town with my husband David and three children, my family and I have lived in Southborough since 1994.

I’m currently a volunteer on the MBTA Triangle Committee, a volunteer for the Southborough Food Pantry and volunteer my time as needed for various school community service needs as well as assisting fellow residents with their miscellaneous needs. Additionally, I am Special Education Advocate, a mother of two Autistic sons.

In 2006, I started a successful neighborhood group the Southville Road Neighborhood Network – SRNN some of you might remember attending my kick off meeting with several town officials and former State Rep. Paul Loscocco. My goal; to advocate for the Southville Road community, to represent the best interests of my fellow neighbors – when needed (or asked) I am the go between, the voice of the neighborhood – I listen, question and challenge the system when deemed appropriate – always keeping the best intentions of the neighborhood in the forefront.

Last summer I had the privilege of serving on the Chief Police Search Committee, and I would like to share my thoughts of my experience with you.

A volunteer position of any kind in my mind like advocating – you do what’s in the best interest of your client – following the guidelines put forward; following the law if it applies to your cause.

To be a successful volunteer/advocate, you take the position with your client; in this case The Town of Southborough, with no hidden agendas, an unbiased attitude, and a commitment, which includes ones time.

One simply SHOULD NOT commit to a committee with nothing but the best intentions – one SHOULD NOT just walk away when something doesn’t go THEIR way. One SHOULD NOT discredit the process and all of those committed individuals who only want the best outcome; that is wrong, unprofessional and very selfish.

As with any group (business/personal) yes there will be personality conflicts, yes there will be times when you disagree but you DON’T walk away if you are COMMITTED. I think it’s important to remember WHY one agreed to be a part of a TEAM in the first place. Committees, boards, advocates and volunteers work TOGETHER – common goal, common thread, there’s a sense of community.

It’s easy to throw stones when one only hears one side of a story. Over the past several months there has been a lot of ‘mud slinging’ by individuals who have only heard one side of the Police Chief Search Committee process and feel they have all the necessary facts to make specific comments. Not once since the Police Chief Search Committee disbanded have I been called or asked my opinion… And you know what they say about opinions – everyone’s got one.

So I ask the people of the Town of Southborough to reflect back on the commitments over the years of each of the candidates that are running for town positions this May 10th, specifically the Board of Selectman.

Sal Giorlandino may not be the most popular guy in town at the moment, but Sal is COMMITTED. One doesn’t take on such a role to be popular – many times decisions made are very unpopular but they are made with the best interest of the town.

Volunteering is the most thankless job out there, time consuming and anything but glamorous, yet – it is very rewarding when you see the fruits of your labor actually come to fruition – nothing happens overnight – it takes TIME.

Sal has been volunteering for many, many years – HE HAS GIVEN HIS TIME, Sal is in it for the long haul – being selectman it’s not a fleeting ‘thing’ with him, Sal’s COMMITTED to the Town of Southborough and it’s residents.

My personal experience with Sal has been a good one, Sal has been accessible when needed, as a volunteer with a question or a resident with a complaint/concern – Sal takes the time to listen. I can’t say that I agree with everything that the town does, and that’s OK – we can agree to disagree amicably.

I learned a lot from my time spent on the Police Chief Search Committee – the committee was very fair as was the process, despite what has been said (written). For those of you who are interested the final report submitted from the Police Chief Search Committee it is available at the Town House.

So please before you go to the polls – read the report – become informed and make your decisions based on longevity of each candidate running, cast your vote on the facts and not of the latest newsprint or blog posting.

You owe it to yourself and to the town; it’s about COMMITMENT and the greater good, not a personal agenda.

I thank you for your time and consideration for the Re-Election of Sal Giorlandino for Board of Selectman.

Linda F. Shaffer

The Key
13 years ago


For pete’s sake, does anyone dispute whether Sal has “committed” a lot of his “time” to the Town? The right question is whether he has been a good Selectman — why is that so hard to understand??

And as for all you said about what it takes to work together as a team — in terms of collaborating with their fellow boards, committees and (most importantly) Town employees, the current BOS are the worst example of insular snobbery I’ve ever seen in action. Now we learn that during the so-called “internal affairs investigation” the Planning Board wrote 3 letters to the BOS asking about their employee, the Town Planner, and when finally the third letter was answered, it was answered by a LAWYER (not even the BOS itself, the cowards), and basically told the Planning Board to go jump in a lake. Are you kidding me? Who do these people think they are??


mike fuce
13 years ago

That is so entertaining that Giorlandano accuses Rooneys supporters of conspiring on the internet. Sounds like the old Saul Lewinsky “Rules for Radicals” method of if there is not enemy create one. Good job Sal, you will be gone ont Monday I predict.

carrie alpert
13 years ago

conspiricy on the internet! yes, that it what we are all hobknobing and sinisizing in the wee hours of the morning. Or maybe it is forward thinking, pro active “with the people” leadership we are seeking, could that be it?

please tell your friends to vote tomorrow–i plan on just turning to whomever is in line with me at Starbucks and then next to me while i am answering the ? of the day there and saying “did you vote?” just throw it out there wherever i go.

marie sullimang
13 years ago

Can’t believe how naive you are.
“….seniors have greater assets….’
‘….heavily subsidized by S.S. & Medicare…”

I am 65 years old & my S.S. is $856.00 mo. live in a very small house & my
property taxes are well over $4,000.00. You might say sell. And I say in this
market? If I sell then what do I do? Buy a condo? Senior housing? I’ll end up
paying more than the $4,000.00 in taxes. And medicare is a joke, the Dr.’s
are “Gatekeepers” who keep you away from any major surgery & prescribe pills.
I can’t wait till you are on S.S. & medicare. Just to let you know I have no other income.

  • © 2023 MySouthborough.com — All rights reserved.