[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
To the Editor:
An Open Letter to the Southborough Board of Selectmen
If you were to ask the average Southborough citizen what they thought of the Department of Public Works and its management over the last few years, you would have heard many descriptors, all negative: our roads are a potholed disaster; dead trees line our streets with no thought to replanting; the Old Burial Ground and Civil War monument lie denuded and destitute; our recycling program is a farce, with all our efforts for over a decade landfilled due to Ms. Galligan’s negligence. And of course, the most egregious of all: the St. Mark’s Triangle disaster, in which Southborough, at the direction of former Selectman Martin Healey, former chair Lisa Braccio, Mark Purple and Karen Galligan applied for a 290K shared streets grant for a history walk they never intended to build in order to move an intersection onto private land and build a park and parking lot for St. Mark’s School.
It was around this time that a new adjective began circulating to describe our town government: corrupt.
This is a very serious word, with very serious implications, and unfortunately every new revelation seems to suggest that there is something seriously wrong with the Department of Public Works, its manager Mr. Purple, and those of you who steadfastly defended and promoted it, despite ever growing demands for investigation. Ms. Galligan’s abrupt and tactless resignation, in which she bounced up to the mic at the very end of your meeting and gave her notice, stunned even you, her most stalwart supporters. We who have been following this debacle weren’t at all surprised, as it was very much in the style of someone who once plowed in the police chief just for spite.
Now, you have launched into a headlong search to find a new DPW head, allowing a tiny sub-committee of appointees to review new applicants instead of reviewing the field yourself. Let me assure you that we, the citizens of Southborough, feel that we could hardly be worse off without a DPW head than we have been with the Purple/Galligan administration, and we urge you to put the brakes on any permanent appointment before addressing the following issues:
Significant financial questions have been raised over the St. Mark’s Triangle deal: where did the money come from to do the work, how it was spent, and what did the state actually say to Ms. Galligan and Mr. Purple when they were summoned to Boston to answer allegations? You have been repeatedly asked for written documentation from this meeting, and none has been provided. Why? How is it that you sent a St. Mark’s alumna and daughter of the former comptroller for St. Mark’s to negotiate a deal with the school in the first place? Were you not worried about the obvious conflicts of interest? Why did you accept Ms. Galligan’s bogus explanation of the need for firetruck clearance, when the previous DPW director had already stated that the existing intersection was entirely ample? Why did you allow and encourage Ms. Galligan to sidestep the Planning Board on this matter, promoting a park and parking lot that received no Planning Board review? And then, how could you with a straight face accept town counsel’s ludicrous “big R, little r” explanation of this disgraceful end-run around our elected planning officials? How is it that Mr. Healey, the grant signatory, offered to do the “heavy lifting” for St. Mark’s to the tune of 20K, to gravel their parking lot? How is it that the triangle was stripped of 100-year-old oaks and maples—huge trees that were sent to be milled—yet the town received no compensation? How is it that we were happy to pay contractors $40 for a pot of milkweed? How much has actually been spent to date, and what will this cost to finish, should your plans go forward for a park that no one but you seems to want? These are only a few of the questions we demand answers to.
For years allegations have been raised about potential misdeeds and illegal expenditures at the DPW. Town vehicles, formerly monitored, now being driven for private use; illegal spraying of pesticides without license; lack of oversight of the cemetery trust funds; a hostile work environment where political affiliations are openly on display on town property. To my knowledge, you have not done anything to investigate any of these issues, though you have been contacted repeatedly by various individuals flagging their concerns. In fact, your response last spring—over vocal public outcry—was to praise Ms. Galligan and the DPW, and renew her contract with a raise! Now, it comes to light through public records requests that Ms. Braccio, as a member of the BOS and as chair—who was perhaps Ms. Galligan’s loudest supporter—routinely voted on contract and other financial matters relating to Galligan and the DPW all the while her husband was receiving payments as a DPW contractor—payments that amounted to 79K since 2018. The ethical and legal implications of her votes are now part of a growing state investigation, and we’ll have to leave it to others to make a final determination, but at the very least, this makes a total mockery of the calls for transparency you have all so loudly and repeatedly touted over the last decade.
Finally, and perhaps most shamefully, you have sat passively while the DPW Oversight Committee, headed by Mr. Boland, a longtime friend of Ms. Galligan, refused to meet for over a year and a half, remained in repeated and continuing violation of Open Meeting Law, and whose chair recently told you at your meeting that he has NO inclination to make any proactive moves whatsoever. Your response was to vote to write a letter! Over a year ago, Ms. DeMuria, a member of this committee, alerted you to these problems, and sent you a comprehensive plan for reform. To my knowledge, you failed to even acknowledge her effort— a practice entirely common with this board and this town administrator.
This has got to stop. We voted you into office to protect and promote our interests, not to thwart them. You need to do five things, and you need to do them immediately:
1) Appoint an interim head of the DPW, and inform Ms. Galligan we don’t need her consultancy at the $150/hour rate she is demanding. Thank you, and goodbye. And do not even consider appointing anyone currently associated with the DPW as a permanent head. We need a totally fresh start.
2) Launch an independent forensic accounting of the DPW going back a decade. We, the tax payers, want to know where our money has gone.
3) Hire an outside investigator to review the St. Mark’s triangle dealings from their inception to date, and provide the ratepayers with a full accounting of who did what, when and most importantly, why—including the actions of your board members and the town administrator. This is a project that NEVER made sense for Southborough. Why have you promoted it, even against the stiffest opposition?
4) Propose legislation for this town meeting to completely overhaul the DPW Oversight Committee to provide for responsible and active governance.
5) Pull any consideration of a land swap with St. Mark’s off the table until the first four conditions above are satisfied.
You have all at various times and points decried the need for citizens’ petitions, and lamented the fact that so much legislation is now done by outside initiative. I fully agree, and this is your chance to get to work and get results, because I guarantee you that if we don’t see some substantive action on these points by January, we the citizens will implement solutions ourselves at the spring town meeting.
We have had enough.
189 Cordaville Road