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:
- Kolenda’s August 22nd letter to Parry (This appears to be referred to in Parry’s complaint as “attachment 2”.)
- Parry’s email sharing his accusations with other residents.
- Parry’s November 28th complaint (From Parry’s email, this was attachment 1 to the signed paperwork.)
- Parry’s complaint “Attachment 3” (From Parry’s email. The header explains, “NOT TECHNICALLY PART OF COMPLAINT. PURPOSE IS TO PROVIDE “CONTEXT” OF COMPLAINT. “)
*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.