Letter: Statement from Michael Weishan about resignation and St Marks Street project

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

Last week, after 21 years of service to the Town of Southborough, I resigned from the Southborough Historical Commission before four members of the BOS—Lisa Braccio, Martin F. Healey, Andrew Dennington and Chelsea Malinowski—could vote to remove me over questions involving $1600 in receipts I submitted for expenses in 2016 and 2017. After one hour of arguments, the BOS grudgingly admitted the $1400 didn’t go to me (the Historical Commission hired a college student to do web design), but it seems that two hosting bills I submitted may—or may not—have been paid twice, once to me, and once to my company.

Even though my attorneys pointed out that the error—if any—was on the part of the Town Accountant, and that these charges had been approved by the then chair, Joe Hubley, the SHC treasurer, and all the other members of the Commission, it was clear BOS minds had been made up long before we entered the room. A complaint was promised to the state ethics board to boot.

So how could a possible $200 mistake six years ago lead to this?

Intersections vs Indian Burial Grounds

There is a little piece of land commonly called St. Mark’s Triangle, between St. Mark’s Street and Rt. 85, and owned by St. Mark’s School.

As many may know, the current intersection of St. Mark’s Street and Route 85 often floods during heavy rains. This is largely the result of St. Mark’s constructing a stone wall across from the school’s main entrance years ago, which prejudicially altered the surrounding grading. But the Town, instead of requesting St Mark’s remediate the storm water problem they caused, apparently decided that this would be a good excuse to move the old intersection southward, through the center of the triangle.

This was clearly a terrible idea: unnecessary, horribly expensive, and requiring the sacrifice of a large swath of century-old trees. It would also demand a land or easement swap with St. Mark’s, both of which require voter approval at Town Meeting. However, the project was much favored by St. Mark’s, as reported to me by a member of their administration, because it would give them greatly expanded parking for sports events and easier access to their playing fields.

Fortunately, the project remained unfunded, especially since the Historical Commission had long known that there were many burials outside of the Old Burial Ground, and that considerable evidence pointed to the fact that the Nipmuc burial ground lay adjacent to the Old Burial Ground on St. Mark’s land. As recently as this past spring, when the Historical Commission wrote the BOS about the racially disturbing flags they were allowing several individuals to fly in the Old Burial Ground, the Commission reminded the BOS that hundreds and hundreds of unmarked graves lay in and outside of the walls. This letter went unanswered.

By State law, proposed roadway construction on land adjacent to sensitive historical sites must be preceded by an archaeological survey to make sure no graves are present, but neither the BOS nor St. Mark’s seemed bothered by that ominous possibility. 

The Story Begins

In the fall of 2020, Mark Purple notified his employee Karen Galligan, the head of the DPW, that there might be a way out of their funding problem: the State’s Shared Streets program. He sent Ms. Galligan, who is herself an alumna of St. Mark’s School, to lead the negotiations with her alma mater

Over the course of 2020 and 2021, plans began to solidify. It turned out if the Town proposed a “History Walk” along with a few other add-ons like a pocket park to what was really a road project, the DPW might receive an additional 290K! As part of this pitch, Ms. Galligan requested that the Southborough Historical Commission write a letter of support. She provided the Commission with some conceptual plans which showed a wooded park-like area on Town land next to the Old Burial Ground and an extensive trail system linking the museum, the Old Burial Ground, and the library.

As it turns out, the plans submitted to us were either incompetent or manufactured for the purpose. They inaccurately represented the ownership of the parcels, and differed in almost every aspect from what was finally proposed. The final plans ultimately cost the town roughly 150K to develop, money which came out of the DPW budget.

To reiterate: Ms. Galligan came to the Historical Commission in December of 2020 asking for a grant letter of support for a “History Walk,” which the Commission provided. But it turns out Ms. Galligan never intended to build a “History Walk” with these funds. As she stated in her 3 March 2021 letter to Freddie Gillespie, Chair of Open Space: “The history walk was just a concept that was floated to make the grant proposal attractive. However, it is not set in stone or funded under the grant, or part of the spec that is being bid.

In other words, Ms. Galligan is admitting to Ms. Gillespie that she deliberately misrepresented the facts in order to receive a 290K grant from the State to build a “History Walk” she never intended to build. The signatory on this grant proposal was Selectman Martin F. Healey.

On 2/3/21, the award was announced. Here is the quote directly from the State website:Southborough received $290,000 to support the implementation of a new Southborough History Walk, to include the construction of new sidewalks on Marlboro Road (Route 85) and St. Marks Street, a new plaza/gathering area adjacent to the Public Library, and paths around the Old Burial Ground.”

Keeping Things Quiet

This plan was kept obscure, apparently because Mr. Purple, Ms. Galligan, Mr. Healey and Chair Braccio knew the Town would be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of state funds to improve St. Mark’s land, without proper easements, land transfers, or approval of Town Meeting. The proposal itself was buried in a 500-page PDF detailing the remaining projects around Main Street. As Marty Healey wrote to Karen Galligan on February 9, 2021, “I think we can get away without a full-blown contract between the Town and St. Mark’s but we’ll need something.” And then he adds, “what hard costs might there be if we (the Town) did some of the heavy lifting on the gravel parking [for St. Marks?]. (It turns out the answer was another 20K of Town funds, as later correspondence identified.) Mark Purple was in on the scheme, too. Writing to Marty Healey from his iPhone on 16 December 2020: “I agree that this can move forward without an official vote of either the EDC or BOS. [Such a vote would have alerted the public – MW] The Selectmen always have the ability to decline an award if it so chooses (as unlikely as it may be.)

The Desecration

Things remained in murky limbo until the fall, when Ms. Galligan suddenly became alarmed that the town would lose the funding if the work didn’t start soon. So, without a formalized agreement in place with St. Mark’s—in total violation of the order of conditions for the grant which stipulates no work can commence if the plans have changed in any substantive way or if all agreements with private owners weren’t signed and in hand—trees started to fall. Over a period of two days, the entire parcel was clear-cut, and the lumber apparently given away for free to the contractor.

The Historical Commission was alarmed and many residents were horrified. As chair of the SHC, I immediately wrote to the BOS, requesting cessation of work until the SHC could be sure that area contained no graves. That letter went unanswered, as did another from the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC), advising cessation of work.

St Mark’s school now claimed it wasn’t their project, despite the fact they were apparently quite involved in planning a project which would give them improved sidewalk and intersection access, as well as a park and new parking lot at no cost to the school.

(One early version of Ms. Galligan’s proposal actually recommended taking the playground equipment at South Union School and moving it to the new park, which would only benefit the children of St. Mark’s faculty.)

But all this back and forth about the Native burial ground did have one effect: according to an email from Mark Purple to Marty Healey dated 8 November 2021: “Marty, agreed on both fronts. Also, Lisa has been doing a tremendous amount of research, with Karen’s assistance, to prove that the Nipmuc burial ground is within the confines of the Old Burial Ground, despite the crudely drawn maps in books that may indicate to the contrary.”

The book with the “crude” drawings Mr. Purple is referring to is our official town history, Fences of Stone, written by Nick Noble more than 30 years ago. Nick had access to now lost documents of Reverend Cheney, minister of St. Mark’s church more than a century ago and who was hugely interested in the early history of Southborough, having also written a short history of the town. I personally spoke with Nick Noble in December, and he assured me that the Triangle almost certainly was the site of the Nipmuc burial ground, as Reverend Cheney’s other observations had proven to be correct. This location was the consensus of the SHC, MHC, as well as representatives of the Nipmuc Nation.

However, that narrative didn’t suit the road project. As Mark Purple’s 11/21/21 email to Marty Healey reveals, the Chair of the BOS, Lisa Braccio, and the head of the DPW, neither of whom are historians or trained in archaeology, tried desperately to invent facts and rewrite history to save themselves.

They of course failed.

The Missing Easements

Throughout the fall work continued on the project illegally, as the “interim licensing agreements” between the Town and St Mark’s, which were a requirement of the grant, were not signed by the BOS until late November. By this time, public outcry had begun to mount. Why was the Town spending public money to improve private property? Why did so many century-old trees have to be cut down? What actually was the “park” going to contain? Who would it benefit? And most cogent of all, what happened to the History Walk, the original purpose of the grant?

Adding to BOS woes were those pesky “licensing agreements,” which were arguably actually easements, making their use without Town Meeting approval illegal. This is a deplorable practice, which essentially forces voters to approve land grants and projects ex post facto, and robs ratepayers of their right to weigh in on projects BEFORE they are started.

(In fact, I found this practice so egregious that in January, I placed before this year’s Town Meeting a citizen’s petition, condemning the practice and censuring the BOS for their use. We will be voting on the article this May.)

Eliminating Critics

On Monday January 31, 2022 I received a notice from Mr. Purple summoning me to a BOS “HEARING” the following Tuesday. Despite my protest of lack of due process, BOS/Purple refused to move the hearing. In a few short days, I was forced to search for and hire counsel, provide a multi-thousand-dollar retainer, sort through 6- and 7-year-old records, and bring my legal team up to speed. On February 8th, my attorneys and I met with the BOS, who initially wanted to proceed immediately. Eventually a postponement was agreed till the 17th.

This is how Ms. Braccio began on the 17th, taken directly from my notes:

“To start out with a little history about how we got here: On 30 November 2021 while consolidating old files at the townhouse Ms. Hale, discovered a copy of a lease for the Flag School between the Town of Southborough and the Southborough Historical Society that had expired in 2017. She verified agendas that no renewals were discussed and verified with the Town Accountant that the minimal lease payments had not been made after 2017 as required. Ms. Hale then shared the information with Mr. Purple, Town Counsel and me. I asked Ms. Hale to print out the accounting leger for the Historical Commission from 2007 as the lease specified fuel, utilities and electricity were responsibility of the lease holder. And I wanted to verify when the Historical Commission started paying any or all of the expenses. During my review, three items from 2016 and 17 attracted my attention….”

Does anyone else see multiple issues with Ms. Braccio’s “explanation?”

Ms. Braccio is claiming that while investigating a lease between the Town and the Southborough Historical SOCIETY (an independent 501(c)(3) organization, whose records she has no access to), she directed Ms. Hale to look at the minutes of the COMMISSION, and to pull the records of the COMMISSION, which had never been signatory to the lease, never made the lease payments, nor had anything to do with the building, other than paying the water and internet at the Museum for the last few years while it met there.

How many thousands of dollars of taxpayer-funded salary were committed to this investigation? Ms. Braccio admits to using town personnel for weeks in November to search back through records dating to 2007. And the result? A promise of an ethics complaint based on $200 in payments approved six years ago. All of this could have been resolved with a simple phone call either to me, or the former SHC Chair, Joe Hubley, who approved these reimbursements in 2016 and 2017. The fact that such an obvious solution was never attempted reveals the purely retaliatory nature of Ms. Braccio’s motivations, and should infuriate every tax-payer in Southborough whose money she misused.

And putting the veracity of Ms. Braccio’s statements aside for a moment, consider also the chilling toll that this reckless attack will have on future applicants for town office. I was forced to spend over $10,000 of my own money (and counting) to defend a volunteer position I had held for 21 years—all because of an “investigation” launched by someone who can’t even explain or defend its rationale.

Why would any sane person subject themselves to this kind of liability in the future?

Public Records Requests and the Damning Truth

As Mr. Dennington admitted during the hearing, one of the things that particularly “bothered” the BOS members were the repeated public records requests which I and other concerned citizens have been making and continue to make. (They are the source of the quotes contained here, and now publicly available to all via the Town’s website at https://southboroughtown.nextrequest.com/).

It seems the BOS has good reason to be concerned. Just a few days ago, I came across this 9 March 2021 email from Kathy Cook, head of Advisory, to Karen Galligan et al: (Boldface emphasis below is mine.)

KC: ”Now — final question for now. It appears that we will have no road funds (Warrant or Chapter 90) to use for other routine paving projects until at least 7/1/23. Do you agree with that statement?”

KG: “No — we will have the $325k that is voted at this Town Meeting…..However, we will not have sufficient funds to bid and award a $1.5M road maintenance contract as we have been doing every other year (on average). That does not mean that there is no roadwork happening though… Looking at projects is a new view for the Town, we may have to adjust our budgeting if roads and road projects become a higher priority than in the past.”

KC: “And if you do — does that not concern you?”

KG: ”I would love to have more money in the road maintenance coffers…. The Town changed this dynamic, and understanding, this year when the Town wanted to aggressively pursue the shared spaces grants and also wanted to have some projects available to get ‘shovel ready’ quickly. The road article and Chapter 90 are the appropriate places to fund these sudden projects.”

KC: “And I am on capital planning committee and had no idea the town’s share of the St. Mark’s project is $1,000,000.”

KG: “Again, I do not know what the final cost of this project will be. However, because it was such a fast track from inception to bid, the project was not fully formulated, or designed, when the Town decided to pursue the grant. It is a good project, it is not as frugal as I would generally make a project, but the timeline dictated the process… The actual project didn’t go through capital or advisory, although the marching orders from all was to try to get the funding. The Selectmen had to decide on the project based on conceptual plans, not the actual project. The design was completed after the grant was received, and the estimate was developed…

Over a Million Dollars and Counting of Public Funds Have Been Spent on the St. Mark’s Project While Road Repairs Go Lacking in 2022-23

To clarify, the exchange between Ms. Galligan and Ms. Cook confirms that the Town has spent over ONE MILLION DOLLARS, and counting, on the St. Mark’s project.

PLUS, THE TOWN MUST NOW DEFER ROAD MAINTENANCE UNTIL July 1, 2023 BECAUSE IT SPENT ALL ITS FUNDS ON THIS BOONDOGGLE.

ALL OF THIS IN A YEAR WHEN THE BOS INTENDS TO HIKE YOUR PROPERTY TAXES BY AS MUCH AS 20%

Aftermath and Future Steps

  • St. Mark’s School must complete the required archaeological survey recommended by the Massachusetts Historical Commission before any further work, road, reforesting or otherwise, can be contemplated on the triangle. It is their land, their responsibility, and frankly their heritage, and St. Mark’s needs to be accountable, if for no other reason to make credible their claims of respecting cultural heritage and diversity. Upon completion of such a survey, if St. Mark’s still wishes to build a parking lot, it should do so under Planning Board supervision, and at its own expense.
  • Southborough should immediately return the 290K awarded from the state for the “History Walk” or ensure that the project is completed legally and within the specifications approved by the state. An investigation should also be launched as to whether the Chapter 90 funds also used in the project were done so legally. The State mandates that these funds be expended only on locally owned roads. We do not “own” the proposed termination of St. Mark’s street—the school does. Given the severity of allegations noted throughout this letter and the involvement of numerous current members of Town government, any investigation must be conducted by outside, independent agencies, such as the State’s Office of the Inspector General as well as the Massachusetts Ethics Commission.
  • NO MORE PUBLIC MONEY SHOULD BE SPENT ON THIS PROJECT
  • The easements proposed at Town Meeting should be rejected.
  • Voters should approve the citizen’s petition to discourage this practice in the future.
  • The BOS must stop jealously guarding its privileges and instead own up to the fact that the physical and horticultural infrastructure of the Old Burial Ground is bordering on critical collapse. Either the BOS needs to proactively maintain the headstones and restore the tree cover, or it needs to turn that authority over the SHC, which, as a Commission, could fundraise and contract with outside parties to preserve our most important archaeological heritage.
  • Finally, we should work with the Nipmuc Nation to memorialize their contributions to our town’s history. In whatever format this turns out to be, it should be on town-owned land with input from accredited historians and design professionals.

Michael Weishan
Former Chair of the Southborough Historical Commission

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bump on a log
5 months ago

No wonder Mr. Healey is leavening his post, long but well written. What a mess!!

John Kendall
5 months ago

If even half of what is written is true, this town is in a world of poop. I think it’s time for a REAL investigation of all of this by the attorney general’s office.

Undisclosed Costs and Cover Up
5 months ago

It’s all a matter of public record, all gained through a public records request, that everyone who cares should do and read. The excerpts from emails are direct quotes.

This town should have an outside audit, especially DPW, EDC, and all grant activity.

The town also needs policies, including the ability to fire town counsel, replace the town administrator, and remove BOS members if necessary. These are standard policies and best practices.

Also, town counsel should NOT be protecting, defending, or providing cover for any of this mess. It is illegal and unethical to take illegal positions, positions against the law. They are responsible for this and do not reflect the values of this town. This town will operate so much better with professional, ethical legal advice.

Kate Noke
5 months ago

Wow – this is brilliantly written, and I agree with John that an investigation should absolutely be undertaken as soon as possible. This all comes across as totally shady, but I guess we can hope for a full explanation from those involved

mytownsouthborough
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate Noke

“Hope for a full explanation” Hope won’t do it. Get involved in unravelling the lies and corruption..

Awoken Parent
5 months ago

I don’t know Weishan. For someone who has put as much time into serving in various roles in this town to be attacked like this is nuts. I have heard Michael can be a pain in the you know what but nothing he has written here seems off base. I spent a few hours on the documents that came out of the PRR’s and it is all very damning. (by the way – any corruption going on in the town is child’s play compared to what the Superintendent and School Committees are doing while nobody is looking. For those of you who love to read the PRR’s stay tuned and get lots and lots of popcorn. I was floored when I heard about this over the weekend. There will be major resignations forthcoming)

Outraged
5 months ago

Lisa Braccio needs to resign, immediately. As Chair, the buck stops with her, and it seems like a million or more bucks of our money have flown right over her head and into the coffers of St. Mark’s. And no road repairs for a year? Jesus, I just about lost my teeth when I hit a huge pot hole on Parkerville Road the other day! Plus, this whole business with Weishan smacks of witchhunt. Yes, he is blunt and outspoken, but he seems to be the only one who continually fights for his town, AND puts his money where his mouth is. (Don’t envy him that.) We need a full outside investigation this huge mess, and then heads need to roll.

mytownsouthborough
5 months ago
Reply to  Outraged

Good be outraged, but do something to right the many wrongs in this town

It is happening here!
5 months ago

Is the Attorney General involved in a investigation?

Pat D
5 months ago

What are PRR’s??

Michael Weishan
5 months ago
Reply to  Pat D

Public record requests

Dean Dairy
5 months ago
another point of view
5 months ago

Are you accusing the School Superintendent and School Committee of some kind of corruption-based crime? Step up with specifics ( or apologies ), please.

Resident
5 months ago

If people only really knew what goes on over at the schools and with the school committee, they would be astonished. However, if you notice, anytime anything is brought up, nobody wants to hear it. Such a shame that the biggest drain on the town budget, is the most corrupt, and even worse…NOBODY CARES!

Resident (2)
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

For me, it’s not the anonymous posting, it’s more the vague accusations that bother me. If someone wants to call out an issue, then say it. These “if you only knew” posts, without actually saying anything are preposterous.

[Editor’s Note from Beth: I added “(2)” after Resident, since one of the comments this one was responding to was by somoene else going by “Resident”. It would cause confusion for readers.]

mytownsouthborough
5 months ago

$450,000.00 was stolen from the School Dept. What happened to that case????? Who was watching the store.

Resident
5 months ago

Christine Johnson, that is who. But is was all swept under the rug and no worries the insurance covered it up. She was told repeatedly that the employee who stole was doing drugs while working and she didn’t want to hear it. His license was found by the custodian in the little boys bathroom with a white powder on it. Yeah, we can let that slide. School Committee supported her claiming it wasn’t her fault. If you think Greg is any better, you have your head in the sand. I post anonymously because I have first hand knowledge from somebody who works in the Superintendent’s Office. I would not want the connection made and retribution to the employee.

Kelly Roney
5 months ago
Reply to  Resident

Resident, I’m not saying you’re wrong or wrongly motivated.

But what you have is not “first hand knowledge.” The employee you know has first-hand knowledge. You have hearsay that’s hard to judge the truth or falsity of because it’s anonymous and second-hand.

djd66
5 months ago

If what Michael Weishan claims is true (I have not reason to doubt what he is saying), this is very troubling!

1) I can’t believe the town is into this for $1,000,000 – what a COMPLETE WASTE!
2) If the above is true, certain leaders of our town should resign immediately.
3) Roads: Route 85 is perhaps the most traveled road in our town. The section south of route 30 up to the fire station is a mess on both sides. Why was this not fixed and repaved after the construction was done?
Route 85 north of route 30 is now a mess – thanks to this idiotic construction project. Both sections of this road should be fixed before anything else is done.
4) Truly troubling that Michael Weishan had to spend $10,000 of his own money to defend himself over $200.00 and something that happened 6 years ago. The guy was a volunteer for over 21 years and they are coming after him for $200??? I would love to see some kind of response from the people involved and understand why they went after him so aggressively.

djd66
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

I would like to understand EXACTLY what this “Pocket Park” is actually costing the town. If its not $1 million, is it $750,000? Can someone post a spreadsheet with figures on what was already spent and what is anticipated to be spent?

Also, can someone tell me what exactly is a “pocket park”?? Sounds very similar to a pocketbook – which is where the money is coming from.

Michael Weishan
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth, in fairness, when the head of the DPW admits to Advisory “she doesn’t know how much this project is going to cost” and the Town refuses to release records, citing inaccuracies or lack of context in my letter seems a little unfair. I have had public record requests in front of Mark Purple for the better part of two weeks demanding a total cost accounting for the Triangle, which again we do not own. Nothing. Perhaps you will have better luck. Or Advisory will. The fact remains that Karen Galligan has repeatedly told advisory that the 290K Shared Streets money “was already spent” and Dennington repeated the same in his Park Committee meeting a week or so ago, saying it was spent on “park infrastructure” if memory serves. Do see any infrastructure? Sidewalks? Planting? Pathways? History Walk? Bike racks? What I see is the rough base of a needless road that probably plowed under Native American graves and leveled a half acre of century-old trees. And as for the drainage, this whole issue was caused by St. Mark’s and their construction of a stone wall along St. Mark’s street. The Town could have simply ordered them to mitigate the drainage issue they created, but instead we offered to build them a whole new intersection, parking lot and park, and Marty even generously offered to throw in 20K to gravel it for them! Why? That is the real question. Finally, I would respectfully ask that the commenters who are voicing concerns over school spending issues should really do this in another thread, as it clouds this very important issue. Document your research and open the question to the public as a separate investigation.

Rebecca Deans-Rowe
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth, I appreciate your efforts to uphold journalistic standards, but Michael’s letter is clearly presented as that: a letter. It is not a journalistic piece, and more akin to a letter to the editor. As such, he is completely entitled to state his opinions or observations as he sees them. Readers are equally free to investigate, verify, or disagree. It is unfair to chastise someone for drawing conclusions in this type of submission.

Patrica Burns Fiore
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth, Michael wrote a “Letter to the Editor” and that is how you published it. Having been one of the many people that helped him sort through hundreds of pages of emails from FOIA requests, and edit that letter, I think we all should be concentrating on the enormous story it tells. “SOME of the facts in the letter are accurate…” is way off base.

Michael Weishan
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth, I will echo the comment below. I didn’t work alone researching this letter. I and a concerned group of citizens pooled various PRR. Even when the very same question was asked, we were returned different document sets, all missing their attachments. Those sets should have been identical, and complete. You mention in your previous note a second bid. That should have been included in a PRR requesting all financial documents concerning the triangle, yet it wasn’t. How do you explain that, other than deliberate obfuscation? You yourself can’t get that information. How do you explain that we received 290K for a history walk the DPW didn’t intend to build? My job with the letter was to alert our community to serious problems at the Town House. And that I did. It is now the role of the State Inspector Generals Office and the Ethics Commission to take over, demand the full and complete record set, which we never received, review the facts and draw their final conclusions as to the legality or illegality of the points I raised. Advisory may play a role in this, but as the commentator below points out, they have had a year on this issue, and none of this would have even come to light had we not raised the questions, so we’ll see.

Longtime Observer
5 months ago

It is important to highlight that Mr. Weishan’s writing is a Letter to the Editor, as Ms. Deans-Rowe has pointed out. She correctly states that Mr. Weishan is free to express his opinions and observations, and that readers are free to verify and investigate [his claims] for themselves.

However, given the seemingly-dazzled reception of Mr. Weishan’s letter by commenters, Beth, as leader of this journalistically-geared site, is equally justified in clarifying the distinction between journalistic (and arguably investigative) standards and the serious and well-written but ultimately amateur writing of Mr. Weishan. In short, Mr. Weishan has produced an excellent example of persuasive writing that readers erroneously seem to be accepting as expository writing.

I do not think it is fair to characterize Beth’s replies as “chastising;” I think she is merely calling attention to the fact that Mr. Weishan has offered a curated set of artifacts and his interpretation of them – which he is entitled to do – but that his presentation and interpretation, while polished (as evidenced by the comments of many wowed readers) is but one version of the story. For fair and obvious reasons, Mr. Weishan seems to feel targeted. It is to be expected that his presentation come from a place of defensiveness and the perceived need to self-vindicate, which is often attempted (by people in general, not just Mr. Weishan) by trying to assign malfeasance to those with power and whose actions he disagrees with.

As an outsider to this affair (I have no connections to the BOS, Advisory Committee, Planning Board, the Historical Commission, or any of their members, or to the DPW or Town Hall and any of its employees, nor to St. Mark’s or Mr. Weishan) I see the artifacts that Mr. Weishan has produced and follow the logic of his line of reasoning. I also see those artifacts, recognize missing perspectives, and can easily imagine a different and more benign narrative.

Another Longtime Observer
5 months ago

To Longtime Observer: Every town resident who cares about local government can get involved by voting and reading minutes. Check out the Advisory Minutes of January 2022: “Road maintenance discussion – KG (Galligan) reviewed that last year St. Marks park was planned to be funded with Town road money. A spreadsheet showed that there was no money left for road maintenance. KG updated that potholes, catch basins, etc, is funded from the bituminous concrete line item.” Commingled with a $2.5m TOWN budget line item on “Downtown Various Street Projects Includes” (line 152-153) “fixing St. Marks Street AND PARK at the intersection.”

Your pseudo pedantic tone and dismissal of “artifacts” (and the caring attention of “wowed” readers) is undermined by the above facts, the depletion of town funds on a private landowners property. And the apparent plan to continue to use taxpayers money. Your gross mischaracterizations include a reference to Mr. Weishan’s trying to “self-vindicate” by “assigning malfeasance to those with power.” This thought is simply silly. Another Longtime Observer doesn’t share any of your dismissive views. Your wistful benign imaginations are nonsensical in light of the budget discussions and the early January 2022 Advisory Minutes.

No Inaccuracies
5 months ago

There are NO inaccuracies, via known public records. And Weishan is definitely NOT the problem. This is like shooting the messenger. The problem lies with the sanitized public records requests. Mark Purple, the town administrator and chief records officer, sanitizes the public records requests. He leaves off attachments and often does not provide follow up communications. If any piece of this waste was rebid, it SHOULD HAVE SHOWN UP in the posted records requests. WHERE IS IT IN THE PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS?

Also, due to the DUBIOUS legal blunders and status, Mr. Dennington (who with Ms. Braccio scolds Weishan for doing public records requests) is in full cover up mode with his own poo poo spin, nothing to look at taxpayers. Move along. Remember, there is NO EXCUSE or DEFENSE for sitting through the 11-1-21 town meeting without mentioning one word about this mess, both Advisory and BOS. Why? Because they don’t want you to know. Just vote like lemmings for the EDC rezoning. One email asks Marty Healey how the other easements are coming along, CSX near railroad tracks. He’s not town counsel, and he wasn’t elected to be a developer. But he was side by side with EDCs Julie Connelly pitching the EDC rezoning at 11-1-21 town meeting. Karen Galligan emails to Kathy Cook state she has no idea what the final cost be, but it’s up to $1.2m without the ADD-IN of sidewalks. Did Cook, Braccio, Healey, Dennington and gang mention anything at all about all money gone, spent, to the extent of not being able to afford a road contract?? NO, they all sat silently before the voters. They want this mess to go away. They want you to grant the land area under the TOWN OWNED ROAD to St. Marks. VOTE NO. Not one more taxpayer penny spent on this mess.

BTW, Dennington wants to put a commemorative plaque near the crazy short rush hour traffic NEW ROAD built using taxpayers money on land OWNED by St Marks. This IGNORANCE is the height of broom sweeping. It’s still illegal to run a road over a burial ground. But Healey and Galligan spent $20k of your road money on gravel. This entire mess was always a road infrastructure project, a bookend to downtown. Now it’s an expensive illegal mess. VOTE NO. Hold all accountable. Make DENNINGTON and gang RESTORE the site, back to its original condition. Can’t run a road over burial grounds. It’s illegal.

Patrica Burns Fiore
5 months ago

Let’s not cloud the issue at hand.
St. Mark’s caused a drainage issue for a public street. Instead of insisting the school fix it, someone decided it was best to move an entire roadway. So now we have a History Walk and playground without either history walk or playground, a Tree City that just razed an entire swath of centuries-old trees, a bulldozers on a known potential Native American burial ground without any thought to archeological survey, a park fully on St. Mark’s property that the town is paying to create and will pay to maintain in perpetuity, and a parking lot on town property created for the sole use of St. Mark’s and funded by town coffers. I wonder who will plow that parking lot in the winter and re-gravel every five years? And, our DPW supervisor, Town Administrator and entire Select Board was on board with the plan. Frankly, if the town has spent $100 of tax-payer money on this project, it is too much.

John G
5 months ago

If I were Michael Weishan; I would sue the town for attorney fees plus harassment .
After reading the above this was clear intent of the town to silence a verbal critic.

To Quote from a South Park episode; “Respect my authority” !
To which there is none.

Alex Neihaus
5 months ago

I guess I’m not the only one who spent time trying to make Southborough a better place to discover that Mark Purple and, in particular, Karen Galligan, do whatever they want, ignore all input and use every available means to cover up anything that raises questions.

Both need to go.

I’ve been described as angry but I think that’s unfair. I’m astonished that a wealthy town like our has tolerated these despots for so long.

At least there’s now one more like me.

Over to the Dark Side
5 months ago

Those of you interested in this thread must, must watch last night’s Advisory Meeting. It seems Kathy Cook is extremely agitated about her role in the above, and wants to set the record straight. After a long introductory preamble, where she fudges facts and misstates many of issues of the St. Mark’s Triangle, she attempted to browbeat her board into allowing her to draft a letter to this blog, which she would then send to each for edits, and they would comment on, edit, etc and send back to her. Fortunately for Cook, Michael Weishan was in the audience, raised his hand, and told Cook in no uncertain terms what she was proposing was entirely ILLEGAL under open meeting law. Totally and completely illegal. There can be no deliberations outside of a public meeting. “That’s the way we always have done it,” she said. Eventually she grudgingly backed down. (Her only concern btw was clarifying how much money is actually left for road repairs; as for the rest of this mess, it seemingly doesn’t bother her. At one point, she said something like “roads are all that audience (meaning us) really cares about). WRONG KATHY! Thank god for member Marci Jones, who pointed out repeatedly that the way to look at this was to pull together all the costs associated with this miserable project and sort through items one by one. Cooks behavior is wrong on so many levels. 1) Her comments reveal she is not in possession of all the facts 2) She doesn’t see the need for a complete forensic review of this matter. 3) She is taking the unheard of step of trying to influence the news by writing to a blog, instead of doing what normal boards and commission do, wait for the news outlet to cover them. 4) She is seemingly unaware of the most basic functioning of Open Meeting Law. 5) She seems to care more about her rep than the possibility of huge fraud and waste of public funds. And just to add insult to injury, she runs a hugely sloppy meeting, allowing members who saunter in 20 or 30 minutes late to demand recaps and vote on matters they didn’t fully vet. And this is the woman who wants to run for selectman? Well, she lost my vote last night!

Steve
5 months ago

Kathy is still planning to send a letter to “My Southborough” albeit she is now going to discuss the contents with the board publicly.

This is the still wrong approach.

Instead, Advisory should hold a full review of the funding issues around the St Mark’s project with a public Q&A. They should also solicit written questions from the public before the meeting so these can be addressed.

“My Southborough” or any other news outlet can then write articles about the meeting.

Advisory should not be sending letters to “My Southborough”.

Steve
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

I am not suggesting that you be their filter, in fact just the opposite.

The meeting should be public and posted to the Town youtube channel. How is that being filtered?

A rushed letter with a 30-minute review is not a good approach. I think that there is a risk that the Advisory Board will be perceived as not being independent.

Should such a letter be sent, I hope that there are no factual errors in it otherwise the entire board will have to resign. A completely unnecessary outcome that can be avoided if a more deliberative approach is followed.

However, as a public service, I will draft a letter that the Board can send to “My Southborough”:

“The Advisory Board is aware of concerns that gave been expressed with regards to the St Mark’s project. The Board takes these concerns seriously and as such will be conducting a thorough public review of all the aspects of this project that are under the Advisory Boards’ purview. Please check the Town website for future scheduling details and for a link to submit any questions or concerns you may have so that they can be addressed in the meeting. In addition, a public Q&A session will be scheduled as part of the meeting.”

Michael Weishan
5 months ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth, I am sorry but I too must disagree. I wrote you in my private capacity after I resigned. It is entirely inappropriate for Advisory to be sending letters to you in an attempt to alter the narrative. They should be launching a full investigation into the funding sources for this matter. For example, I just noticed another letter today from Mark Purple dated January 21, 2022:

“Good afternoon.
The parking area next to St. Mark’s Field is not being paved. Gravel, grading, drainage and curbing is being done in that area. Any cost outside of the $290,000 Shared Streets grant will be paid from Chapter 90 and/or local road funds. The reciprocal license with St. Mark’s School was executed on November 24, 2021. The license is a public document, and was released already as part of a public records request. You can find a copy on the Town website at
https://southboroughtown.nextrequest.com/, under Request #21-100.

There was no cost specifically for the conceptual design of the History Walk and pocket park; it was added to an existing plan for the improvements to the intersection of St. Mark’s Street and Route 85. The overall cost of the plan, from conceptual to final design, was $143,000, and was paid from DPW FY21 budget funds and Chapter 90 funds.

As the park would be a Town asset, the Town would be responsible for its maintenance.”

1) As I understand it, you cannot use chapter 90 funds on private land. Yet, here is the admission that 90 funds are being used to improve St. Marks property.
2) It now seems we would also be on the hook to MAINTAIN the park on St. Marks land, in perpetuity.

Rather than writing letters, Advisory should be reviewing every cent of expenditure on this total waste of funds. And to insinuate, as Ms. Cook did during the last meeting that we shouldn’t be so concerned about this because it is not “our” money, it’s the state’s, is nothing short of infuriating. The state’s money comes from you and me, something that I am painfully aware of with every pay stub.

Pat D.
5 months ago

Mr. Weishan is right: Advisory Committee should be focused on understanding the basics on state open meeting law and the important point on Chapter 90 funds. More importantly, the area is a likely burial ground. There should be no roads or parks on a burial ground. It’s clear that no one checked. It’s also clear that all involved are back peddling. Thanks

SB Resident
5 months ago

This whole thing is infuriating, but the disastrous state of some of our roadways is equally as infuriating and to learn this nonsense is the cause of a lack of funding to deal with it is outrageous. Parkerville north is travelled by hundreds of parents and visitors daily going to the schools and the state of disrepair is beyond tolerable. It is incomprehensible that a repave wasn’t part of the plan for the gas pipe replacement project.

Another resident
5 months ago
Reply to  SB Resident

Are you sure that there is no plan to repave Parkerville Rd? After pipe replacement projects the road is not supposed to be repaved for at least one year to allow for trenches to settle, which doesn’t explain why Cordaville Rd in front of Woodward hasn’t been paved. It’s been at least several years–it’s past time to do it.

John Kendall
5 months ago
Reply to  SB Resident

There’s more than Parkerville north. Drive around and look. A lot of streets are in severe disrepair. They’ve been filling holes in my neighborhood for years, only to have the plows tear up the patches. Karen has done very little to better our roadways, yet has been in on some very questionable projects. And don’t forget Pizzagate, burying a Mass Highway truck behind the old fire station, causing damage to the truck. I say throw her out and bring John Borland out of retirement. He listened, and he cared

sick of torn up roads
5 months ago
Reply to  SB Resident

I could not agree more! Why is it, a utility can tear up our roads and not leave them in the same condition they found them in?? Rt 85 and Parkerville are a complete mess – and that’s from being torn up by utilities – not wear and tear!

Steve
5 months ago
Reply to  SB Resident

Why did the repaving of Rt 85 stop at the Marlboro border? More fine work from our town officials.

Concerened citizen
5 months ago

There is some concerning and serious allegations being made here and it would make sense to have an impartial, outside investigator to look into this.
I know I will be reaching out to the state AG office and I would encourage many of you to do so as well. They should be aware that there are allegations of misuse of state funds.

Kelly Roney
5 months ago

Has anyone with more knowledge than I have ever heard before of use of a license agreement in lieu of a real estate easement or purchase?

I think of a license agreement as related to intellectual rather than real property, but I can’t claim I have enough experience to know this distinction is valid. Any help out there?

David Parry
5 months ago

Kelly, the question you ask (above) can be googled. It leads you to arcane and confusing differences in legal terminology.
What you appear to be really asking, along with many other people, is this: … Was this terminology used to deliberately ( and inappropriately) avoid the necessity of obtaining easements by vote at Town Meeting, before construction began?

Concerned too!?
5 months ago

Concerned citizens can file a complaint about misuse of state funds to the Office of the Inspector General at this link:
https://www.mass.gov/forms/report-fraud-waste-or-abuse-of-government-funds-or-property-to-the-oig-online-form

This should be investigated and the project should be stopped. Your complaint to the town may go nowhere.

Townie
5 months ago

The roads in this town are a disgrace. The Main Street project fixed some of it, but more popped up. Newton street/east main is a mess, Woodward to the PSC is a mess, library to st marks is a mess. Numerous side roads are falling apart. With little to no explanation from Karen, I can only assume she has completely failed at properly maintain the roads. This town deserves better management from the DPW.

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