Planning Board appoints new members to Public Works Planning Board

Last night, the Planning Board appointed two new members to the Public Works Planning Board. That board is responsible for advising the Board of Selectmen on planning, managing and financing the town’s DPW.

In June, selectmen asked DPW Director Karen Galligan about recent inactivity of the board. They asked her to give it a new charge, considering options for changes at the Transfer Station. One option to be reevaluated is “pay as you throw”.

The Planning Board was responsible for appointing two spots on the board out of five volunteer candidates. (Town Planner Jennifer Burney explained that the other 3 positions are filled by the Town Moderator.)

Each candidate received at least one vote of support from the board. In the end, the board selected Jamie Hellen for three years and Susan Baust for two. 

Hellen was the only candidate to answer questions last night.  Planning Board member Kathleen Bartolini was dismayed that she couldn’t question the others.

She worried that going forward candidates may think “show up, you get hit with questions and if you stay at home, you don’t have to answer questions”. Burney explained that the candidates were notified of the meeting, but told attendance wasn’t required.

Hellen is Operations Assistant to Hopkinton’s Town Manager. Adressing the board he pitched his experience in municipal operations and budgeting.

The candidate mentioned that the DPW had “a few hiccups” in the past. Asked to clarify, he pointed to the Town Warrant’s capital expenses not listing items like a new vehicle budgeted for the DPW Director.

He also reminded Planning Board members of the controversy last spring over changes to the Cemetary Supervisor position. He said it could have done with “a little more vetting up front”.

Hellen saw being a resident of only 4-5 years who doesn’t know people at the DPW, as a selling point. He suggested that it would be good to bring a fresh perspective from a citizen viewpoint. He saw the benefit of the board as being a citizen peer review committee before DPW related articles get to Town Meeting.

In discussing candidates, Bartolini raised red flags on what she saw as potential conflict in appointing Baust.

She said a note in the initial handwritten list included that Baust was recommended by DPW Director Karen Galligan.

Bartolini advocated that the person being advised should be “hands off”. Candidates shouldn’t feel that being considered means they need to align their thinking with the town employee they are advising.

Chair Don Morris rebutted that the DPW Planning Board advises selectmen, it doesn’t report to Galligan.

Morris, along with members Phil Jenks and Andrew Mills, were supportive of Baust based on her past service on town committees.

Those that knew the candidate said they respected her. Bartolini clarified that it wasn’t personal, since she doesn’t know Baust.

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9 years ago

Conflict of interest with Susan Baust? Wait a second!

Red flags? Talk about red flags – with five applicants, the Planning Board had to pick the candidate (Jamie Hellen) that lives at the same address as Desiree Aselbekian?

Wasn’t Ms. Aselbekian (who has also just recently been appointed to the DPW Planning Board) the very vocal leader of the charge to terminate Ms. Galligan? How convenient. I am not saying that Mr. Hellen is not qualified to sit on the Board, however, this certainly in my mind anyway raises questions about just how unbiased and open minded this candidate can be. And how convenient that he was the only one to attend the meeting – I understand that the Planning Board had no intention of interviewing any candidate, that they would rely on resumes only:

“Hellen was the only candidate to answer questions last night. Planning Board member Kathleen Bartolini was dismayed that she couldn’t question the others.”

Perhaps then they should have waited to call all candidates in for interviews after hearing from Mr. Hellen to make it a fair and “transparent” process….. It would have been interesting to see what the other candidates had to say in a public forum. Isn’t that the way the town normally interviews candidates for open positions?

In the end, this has all of the “appearance” of a potential conflict.

9 years ago

Funny I was thinking the exact same thing.

What was the Planning Board Thinking?
9 years ago

The Planning Board was just plain wrong to appoint Jamie Hellen to the Public Works Planning Board simply because he lives at the same address as Desiree Aselbekian. Is he also her boyfriend? What is their relationship? That questions is relevant to this discussion only because he has asked to be appointed to a public committee.

When the BOS recently discussed appointing a replacement to the ZBA, Mrs. Phanuef properly questioned appointing someone from the same street/neighborhood as others on the ZBA. I’m sure the BOS would ask questions before appointing someone’s wife or boyfriend or any other significant to the same committee. The Planning Board should have done so too.

Diversity of opinion works when committees are composed of people from different parts of the town and people with different backgrounds and different opinions. That’s why Town Meeting works!

Ms. Aselbekian’s prior public comments on the operation of the DPW and its management show she has a strong negative opinion on the DPW. That is her opinion and her right to have that strong opinion, although after watching her at several Town Meetings, I doubt she has anything other than strong opinions on anything.

Appointing Mr. Hellen to the same committee makes me start to question just what is really going on here. Maybe he would be a good appointment if Ms. Aselbekian was not on the committee. I do not know. His appointment is just plain wrong due to his connection to Ms. Aselbekian.

Transparency works. It works in terms of the composition of committees as well as the committee members having no hidden agendas. When you appoint someone who lives at the same address as someone who has already made her strong opinions known on the DPW and its management, well, that leads to some ‘What is going on here’ type of questions and that undermines confidence in the Committee. That’s why we have Open meeting laws and publicly posted agendas and other mechanisms to enure Open Government and transparency.

It wasn’t so long ago that the town had a really disastrous experience with the Police Chief Search Committee regarding Jane Moran. This town does not need another committee where we do not have confidence in their recommendations.

9 years ago

Yikes is this an attempt to slip PAYT in under another controversy? Everyone will rightfully be up in arms about the appointment but what can be done after the fact?
What is really happening is that PAYT will get official attention from Karen. To start imagining what Karen will say about it all you have to do is look at the opinions expressed in the second paragraph link titled “new charge”.
(Lots of opinions of what could be fixed first but don’t ever let it be said that the selectmen made business’s pay their fair share at the dump. They might even threaten to leave town!!!!!)
Not likely that Karen will do anything other than provide a favorable PAYT report to her masters in exchange for letting her off the hook(keep her job) in the plow gate episode this past winter.

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