Selectmen and Historical Chair in dispute over conflict of interest investigation

There’s another ugly dispute between Historical Commission Chair Michael Weishan and members of the Board of Selectmen.

Last night, the Board of Selectmen were scheduled to hold a closed Executive Session to address:

the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against a Historical Commission member

I was therefore surprised to see some of the discussion shared on public video, including naming the member accused, under the Town’s Remote meetings. It turns out, the member in question had publicly opened the door to that.

On Monday night, Historical Commission Chair Michael Weishan publicly called selectmen’s investigation into invoices he submitted to the Town years ago “highly suspect” given timing of his impending plans to run against one of its members.

BOS Chair Lisa Braccio adamantly refuted that motivation on Tuesday night, calling his allegation “irresponsible”.

Selectman Marty Healey’s term expires this May. Candidates aren’t able to officially pull papers to run for a position on the Town ballot until February 14th. But given that Weishan ran for selectmen last year, and he has publicly been at odds with Healey, it’s not a surprise to learn he planned to run this spring.

Initially, an agenda and materials posted on February 4th for an open meeting showed that selectmen would be addressing 2016-17 invoices submitted by Weishan for website design work done by his company on behalf of the Historical Commission while he was a member. It included a memo from Town Counsel on January 25th about an apparent violation of Conflict of Interest Laws and a January 31st letter to Weishan.

The letter informed Weishan that selectmen intended to hold an Executive Session to consider conflict violations, though he had the right to request an public, open meeting.

Since the packet didn’t show a written response from Weishan, I reached out to confirm it was his choice to hold an open meeting. He responded that materials were posted “mistakenly”. He wrote that the meeting would be in Executive Session, though there might be follow up in a future open session.

Shortly after, the materials were pulled from the Town’s website. That afternoon they were replaced with a revised agenda for a closed Executive Session without additional materials. So, I honored Weishan’s request not to post them. (Though, I had already made a reference to the matter in response to a comment.)*

During Monday night’s Historical Commission meeting, under Chair’s Report, Weishan referred to a news item that they may have seen about a member “to be examined for ethical issues”. He told them he was the member and he wanted them to hear directly from him.

He explained that charges related to expenses submitted and approved in 2016 for the creation of the Historical Commission’s former website. Weishan stated that he couldn’t be more surprised since they were “signed off on by everyone there”. He followed:

all I can say is the timing of this, just in front of the election, when I intend to announce to run against Marty Healey, is highly suspect. . .

I’m hoping this is just a misunderstanding that I’m going to be Christian in that assessment, and say that this is a misunderstanding on the power of the town’s part and that this will all go away. We’ll find out.

Weishan assured the Commission there was “no validity” to the charges and hoped that with help from his attorneys it would be resolved. He also claimed that the posted materials had been taken down after his attorney objected that it contained “erroneous materials”. He said he was hoping and praying to be back at their next meeting, but if removed their “exceedingly adept” Vice Chair would take over.

On Wednesday, prior to going into Executive Session, BOS Chair Lisa Braccio shot back. She referred to Weishan’s public statement the night before. She said she wanted to address the “inconsistencies”, since they could impact their decision to go into a closed session:

To allude that this discussion before us tonight was to influence an announcement of a potential run for selectmen by Mr. Weishan and Mr. Healy is nothing more than irresponsible and damaging untruths. . .

By using his position on the historical commission under chairs report as an avenue to make false accusations during a public meeting against this board and Mr. Healey specifically prior to tonight’s meeting is at the very least questionable and troublesome on many levels.

She explained that the board hadn’t been privy to any of the findings, or her request for Town Counsel’s review, until January 28th and he was contacted on the 31st. She also followed that materials weren’t taken down based anything erroneous. They were removed after Weishan “rescinded” authorization for an open meeting through his attorney. (That indicates that the meeting posted as open based on the Town’s initial understanding that was Weishan’s preference.) 

Given Weishan’s public comment, Braccio sought Town Counsel advice on their options and to find out how the Board wanted to proceed. Attorney Kate Federoff told them that they had the right to stay in open session, move to closed session, or to make a motion that would allow them to go into closed session with the possibility of returning to open session. 

Braccio asked Weishan whether he wanted an open or closed session. He responded with a statement explaining that he had just retained counsel on Friday. His attorney was requesting a continuance. Asked whether to have that discussion in closed or open meeting, Weishan deferred to his counsel, Attorney Mark Smith. Smith requested a closed session, and the Board agreed, with an option to return to public session.

In a subsequent video, the Board reentered an open meeting to adjourn the meeting. As they were signing off, Braccio seemed to indicate that she would be seeing Smith again. No follow up agenda has been posted yet.

If Weishan is removed from the Commission, it would be both familiar and a first.

In 2016, after petitioners called for removal of Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Leo Bartolini, selectmen** reached a closed door compromise with him to demote himself to a member. After a formal complaint ws filed, selectmen opened a then “unprecedented” public hearing on the matter. The board described the need to meet a high bar for that decision, and ultimately voted to keep him onuntil the end of his term in June 2018. (Though, he resigned a couple months short of that.) 

However, the Board has chosen not to reappoint members who fall short of their expectations. And Weishan’s position on the Historical Commission in June 2018** is one of the most public examples of that.

At that time, Historical wanted Weishan to continue in his role. Then- Selectman Brian Shea argued against it, sharing complaints from a developer and St. Anne’s Church over communications from Weishan. Those related to his efforts to impede demolition of an historic home. The Commission objected and filed an ethics complaint against Shea, claiming he wasn’t transparent about his role in the matter. That in turn drew the ire of the full Board. (In 2019, Shea publicly stated that the Ethics Commission ultimately ruled in his favor.)

In 2020, Selectmen re-appointed Weishan to the Historical Commission, which was badly in need of volunteers and expertise. During that meeting, Weishan blamed poor communications between himself and selectmen for the issues in 2018. Referring to statements he made back then that caused issues, he noted he should have just “shut up”. Braccio responded “he should never shut up” when he disagrees with something. Since then Weishan has publicly criticized the Board on several occasions and drawn heavy criticism from Healey at times over his public comments and communications with residents.

Last night, before the discussing Weishan’s behavior and how to proceed with the meeting, two selectmen and Town Counsel made disclosures about past dealings with Weishan’s attorney. Andrew Dennington said he filed an official disclosure that the law firm he works for had past interactions with Smith’s firm and attorneys. He noted that the disclosure was to avoid appearance of impropriety and to assure that he could act impartially.

Healey worked with Smith for a few years in the 90s and his firm occasionally has acted as opposing counsel on cases he supervised. And Federoff said Smith’s firm had represented hers to prepare some documents. Both said that nothing required disclosures from them, but they made statements of past interactions “for the record”.

*Prior to hearing back from Weishan, I did respond to an anonymous comment claiming selectmen were going after a Historical Commission member for confronting them about the trees taken down next to St. Marks Street. My response included that the accusation was about Conflict of Interest related to financial payments made to a member of the Commission.

**None of the selectmen from the 2016 removal hearings for Bartolini are still on the Board. The only current member who was serving when Weishan wasn’t reappointed in 2018 is Chair Lisa Braccio.

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Inexcusable BOS
2 years ago

BOS brings forward 2016 receipts in 2022 and expects citizens to believe the timing is acceptable and coincidental? It appears odd at best and retaliatory at worst. Furthermore, it took 6-7 years to discover an accounting issue related to a town volunteer? If so, BOS, Mark Purple, and Finance have been negligent in basic duties. Inexcusable all the way around.

diversionary tactic by Braccio and company
2 years ago

This is clearly a tactic by the group noted above to divert attention from the gross mishandling of the so-called pocket park fiasco.

Add to that the background of goings on between Mr. Weishan Mr. Healey and there’s clear motive by the BOS to try and smear Mr. Weishan.

The ultimate irony for this tempest in a teacup would be for Weishan to prevail over Healey in the upcoming election.

Go Mr. Weishan!!!

Waste of Taxpayers Money
2 years ago

The BOS agenda that was posted by Ms. Braccio and the BOS is itself inherently defamation, libelous. It accuses a historical member of ethical violations which requires a public response. Would any reasonable person wait to respond? Or not? Otherwise, there’s a sticky taint of ill repute hanging in the air. (Beth, can you provide the link to agenda?). The way the agenda is worded it does not allow for the complaint to be “dismissed” pending explanation or resolution, but it mentions “dismissal” of the member. Pretty shocking upon first and second read. This is how the town treats its volunteers? Guilty until proven innocent? Does anyone believe Mr. Weishan is bilking the town? Really?

This new town counsel couldn’t just ask about a 2016 invoice? What is BOS doing making accusations in 2022 about reimbursement of a 2016 invoice? Instead the taxpayers are footing the bill for new town counsel to bill hourly for a matter that could have been resolved by the then (past) chair of the historical commission who voted to approve the invoice reimbursement along with the rest of the committee? This entire matter makes no sense. The timing really is suspect. Along with a few other brave souls, Mr. Weishan has asked legitimate business and legal questions about missing trees, grants of taxpayer money for a History Walk gone missing of his now accusing adversaries.
Does anyone see the irony of DPW spending a huge amount of taxpayer funded money to benefit a private landowner to build them a parking lot and remove healthy trees for a park? While the grant was supposed to be for a History Walk? All overseen by BOS? This is all an irresponsible waste of taxpayers money. There should be accountability and answers on the controversial backwards “approval” of the pocket park nonsense and that expensive mess, not a 2022 complaint on a 2016 pass through reimbursement on a website and attempt to save the town money.

2 years ago

Unfortunately, this town is famous for having employees bilk the town and not taking care of the issue in a timely manner. Remember the almost half a million dollars stolen at the school? Remember the Recreation Department employee who was buying her groceries on the town credit card? We never really got to the bottom of that one and how much was really stolen. In the school department case, we were told the insurance covered it so it was fine and School Committee stood behind Johnson and her minions. Who do you think paid the increase in the insurance premiums for that debacle? Why is nobody watching the checkbook in either the town or the schools? When does it end? Don’t get me wrong I completely understand that these things happen but to act as though it isn’t an issue is wrong. To reimburse something and come back 6 years later and investigate it more than wrong. If there was an issue, it should have been caught before it was reimbursed. Something stinks in Denmark and we need to start cleaning house.

EDC Spent EEA Grants on Downtown Advocacy
2 years ago

The above article describes the BOS chair’s request for town counsel review of this matter involving invoices dated 2016. What triggered a search of 2016 invoices? It’s 2022. Why is BOS spending money on a legal review and looking to remove a Historical Commission member when the entire Committee as a whole voted to approve the invoice? This whole matter seems overblown way out of proportion and uneven handling in light of the BOS of the most recent EDC incident (called a “mistake”). See YouTube BOS meeting 10/5/21, at 2:54:50. (Also see BOS Minutes, lines 399-423.). Ms. Malinowski states that while she was on Advisory, the EDC stated that the purpose of a portion of their budget was to apply for grants. She points out that later the EDC used EEA Grant money in FY2021 (up to $2,500) to print vote yes advocacy materials on the EDC Downtown Rezoning Initiative. Warrant Article 10 was presented on Town Meeting floor on 11/1/21 by Julie Connolly of EDC and Marty Healey of BOS. Here’s an example of taxpayer money misspending by EDC (“mistakes were made” per Ms. Malinowski) to the tune of $2,500, but no similar BOS action taken to call Executive Session with the EDC members involved, for removal, disciplinary measures, etc. This is a sizable dollar amount. BOS did not treat this matter in the same manner at all. Did BOS seek to discipline or remove those members?

Al Hamilton
2 years ago

I don’t have a position on the status of the $2500 but we should be clear about how funds are allocated after approval by Town Meeting.

Once a budget (and the associated taxes) has been approved by town meeting the relevant department heads, overseen by their elected executive, have broad authority on how to use those funds within the context of their operation. For example, the police chief may state that his or her budget request includes $1,000,000 for salaries and $100,000 for other services. This may be the basis for the review and approval by Town Meeting. However, the town only votes on the top number $1,100,000. The Chief may choose to spend more or less on salaries as long as the total budget does not exceed the $1.1 million.

Needs change over the course of a year and we want our managers to have some flexibility as long as we hold them accountable.

EDC Misspending
2 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al, sorry but disagree. This past October, BOS called out the EDC misspent funds of $2,500 on vote yes printed materials on the EDC Downtown rezoning initiative at November town meeting. This misspending is apparently against state law, which is why it raised concerns. This is why everyone should be aware and take a position against this. That entire committee is responsible and should be held accountable.

Sean Connelly
2 years ago

If you are going to die on this hill, at least know how to properly spell the players’ names. It’s Julie ConnElly. You have misspelled it every time. Thanks.

EDC Misspending
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Connelly

Sorry, who? The above refers to the EDC, a town committee called out by BOS in October for misspending $2,500 apparently in violation of state law. Not sure what you are referencing. The above relates to BOS’s concerns over this alleged waste. If you are referring to the past EDC chair, still a member, did she vote for this? Because that would be a matter of concern, appropriately to go to the BOS for executive session, like other matters of this type, as well as the state ethics commission. It’s all about fairness and accountability. Not sarcasm and arrogant disrespect for residents and their hard earned money.

Almeida J
2 years ago

BOS and EDC push a Downtown Zoning Initiative which has very little value except to possibly one developer. (Victory declared by all!) BOS and Galligan spend hundreds of thousands in tax dollars to enrich St. Marks land. Now, apparently out of thin air, BOS and Purple bring forth 2016 receipts aimed at discrediting and potentially removing a volunteer. Same volunteer who has been asking BOS questions. What is happening in the Town of Southborough? Self-destruction and chaos under the current BOS. One scandal after another. And, our real estate taxes are going up too! Mr. Weishan, you have my vote! Enough already.

2 years ago

Sorry, but Weishan is a bully. When anyone disagrees with him, or he disagrees with someone he makes a scene. Unfortunately his love to serve the town on the historical commission, which I thank him for, has been over shadowed by his inability to communicate professionally with residents and other town officials. Theres nothing wrong with having opinions, but how he aggressively forces his views on others using his position on the commission should not be tolerated.

Townie II
2 years ago
Reply to  Townie


Where Is the EEA Grant Money
2 years ago

Could not agree more with above commenters. To BOS members, who and for what reason was this “research” started, what question, that ended in this 2016 mess? Why the different treatment of one commission member over another or one committee over another? How does Historical get called before BOS, but not EDC for a known “mistake” and made to repay the misspent $2,500 and for similar investigation and disciplinary measures?

To Ms. Malinowski, what happened to the EEA Grant money? Where is it? Who on EDC voted and approved these taxpayer monies to be misspent on EDCs advocacy of its own Downtown Zoning Initiative? The tape mentions questions you pose to town counsel on “mistakes?” What was the follow up? Who exactly applied for the grant? Who voted for the misspending? What happened to the printed materials? The EDC has members that reportedly include lawyers, correct? Who has taken the mandatory state law training, correct? They should know better, right? Where is the BOS public hearing on misspent taxpayers funds and the separate improper advocacy matter? Where is the money? Is this being handled in the same manner, with a legal analysis and a BOS hearing? If not, this is wrong, biased, and an evasion of accountability to taxpayers.

Are We Surprised EDC Strikes Again?
2 years ago

Isn’t it interesting – like Where’s Waldo – almost any issue has a connection back to or example of what not to do coming from the dysfunctional EDC? Their spending of grant money has holes and not just the ones mentioned above. Their same consultants get a cut off the top of pretty much any and every grant EDC manages to get. Why is this allowed? Why is BOS looking the other way or even endorsing such dispersing of funds? BOS, please apply your apparently high moral and ethical standards across the board. Mr. Healey, looks like you have another “rogue committee” to investigate if you make it past May elections.

Longtime Observer
2 years ago

Agreed, Townie.

On one hand, I appreciate Mr. Weishan’s commitment of time to the Historical Commission, and it is good to have someone dedicated keeping an eye on things related to history in town.

On the other hand, Mr. Weishan is perpetually in a cloud of drama. Somehow he seems to be at the center of every controversy, and his relentless attacks on those who disagree with him and his fanning of conspiracy theories have grown tiresome. I am left wondering if Mr. Weishan’s primary pursuit is altruistic support of the town, or the limelight.

Whatever the case, I wish we could find some new voices to step of for HC.

Tired of BOS Nonsense
2 years ago

If this is the best Lisa Braccio can do with her time as chair of the BOS, she should resign immediately. You would have to deaf, dumb and blind not to realize that this smacks of retaliation. The BOS members don’t like Weishan because he speaks the truth, plainly and loudly, and the members of the BOS don’t want their dirty laundry aired in public. The much prefer the “reluctant aye” we hear so much at their meeting these days. Now Weishan has called them out on perhaps the biggest waste of tax payer funds in the history of Southborough: building a park and parking lot for St. Mark’s school using 300K of state money which we could have spent elsewhere, plus doing it with illegal easements. And the surprise! Suddenly troubling invoices appear 6 YEARS LATER which were approved by both then chair Joe Hubley AND the town accountant. How much is this kangaroo court costing us? Who initiated this investigation and why? Those are the real questions here. Weishan has given almost 21 years of service to Southborough, and has done more than any other person to preserve the historic nature of this town. If that makes him a “bully,” I say: bring it on! We need more people like Weishan who stand up for the residents and combat the slithering sycophants that currently infest our Town Hall.

2 years ago

Weishan is a problem and needs to go. He is a walking circus and from what I’ve seen likes to create his own drama. The Selectmen should remove him from all committees that he serves on and not consider appointing him to anything again. My recollection is he’s been thrown off the historic commission in the past by the board but for some reason they reappointed him after a period of time. This time get rid of him for good

Michael Weishan for BOS
2 years ago

BOS go ahead and remove Michael from your appointed committees. We can then elect Michael to a seat next to you at the BOS table if he chooses to run again. Poetic justice. Considering this is how BOS treat volunteers in this Town, who would blame any and all volunteers from running for the door. Volunteers with any talent should quit and head straight for those elected positions. We need your help clean up the mess of elected Town government.

2 years ago

What motivates BOS and Public Works. It’s all about projects and builder’s agendas in Southborough, and who benefits. Michael Weishan is NOT the problem. He is an asset exposing the mendacity in Southborough. The BOS and Public Works make decisions made under cover of darkness. Pocket Park must have gone before the citizens at town meeting. Our current town counsel again works for the BOS, not the interest of the people, in spite of the fact that we pay his ticket. Such transparency. HUH!

BOS Disaster Team
2 years ago

As a lifelong resident of Southborough, my disappointment in the Board of Selectman has never been higher. What happened to ethics and integrity? No votes again for the wrecking ball of Braccio, Healey, Malinowski, Dennington, Stivers. Your legacy as a group is irredeemable.

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