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Officials call on select board member to resign

Audio of select board member played in public meeting
By Daniel Dunkle | Sep 09, 2020
Hope residents and a member of the press tune in on Zoom for a heated Select Board meeting Sept. 8.

Hope — Another intense select board meeting was held for the town of Hope Sept. 8, with Road Commissioner John Monroe telling Select Board member Bruce Haffner he should resign over threats he is accused of making to other town officials.

Board Vice Chairman Brian Powers said some people are not meant to be in elected positions because they take things too personally, and he included Haffner in that group.

The heated comments came after Chairperson Sarah Ann Smith played the audio of a phone conversation between Haffner and an unnamed individual in which they argue about how road work and snow removal should be handled in the town. The audio of the phone conversation was recorded without Haffner’s knowledge and released on Facebook by Powers’ wife, Amy. It was also given to the press.

At one point in the conversation, Haffner states, “The deck was stacked against me from the beginning, and I’m going to take these guys down.”

The other speaker asks who he means.

Haffner says Town Administrator Samantha Mank, Brian Powers and Monroe.

Smith also stated she saw, on a Facebook page, information from Monroe that he was threatened by Haffner on another occasion and that the Select Board member used profanity.

Haffner spoke only once during the meeting via Zoom to say that Monroe’s claims regarding these threats were not true.

Monroe said they were and told Haffner to resign.

Select Board member Thomas Ingraham made a statement trying to de-escalate things. He noted that in 12 states, it is illegal to record someone without their knowledge and said he did not think many people would want their conversations recorded that way. He said the other person in the conversation asked leading questions to get the reaction out of Haffner. In addition, he said a reasonable way to interpret the meaning of taking these guys down was with an electoral upset.

He believed Haffner was upset that several of his proposals concerning the roads budget issues were overruled by other Select Board members. Haffner wanted a town meeting rather than secret ballot vote on the road budget item, and he then wanted more information about town officials opposing the item provided on the ballot.

Others, however, expressed concerns about Haffner threatening Mank, a female employee who serves the Select Board.

Some also questioned the process. Should the Select Board play the audio recording in that meeting?

“This method of solving problems feels humiliating to me. I’m more concerned with ethical governance. This does not feel right,” said one resident in the comments on the Zoom meeting.

Haffner was not the only town person criticized in the open public meeting. It was stated in the meeting that Monroe referred to the recently fired town bookkeeper as “incompetent.”

Elinor Goldberg scolded the Select Board for secrecy and closed-door meetings. She wanted to know more about a town investigation that is apparently under way. What is being investigated? Who is performing it?

“This entire board has allowed secrecy to reign,” Goldberg said.

Smith said the board was following the advice of the town attorney investigating “various claims submitted by various people.”

“This is not a court of public opinion,” she said, after several other matters involving town officials were aired publicly in the meeting.

The board voted 5-0 to approve placing a proposed recall ordinance on the Nov. 3 ballot. If voters pass this item, the town will have a process in place that can be used to remove an elected official such as a Select Board member.

In other business, Duane Wright gave an update on results from the broadband survey, which found that 66% of those surveyed have Tidewater, 21% with Redzone, and 13% are other providers.

The survey also found 29% were strongly dissatisfied with their internet service, while 25% were dissatisfied; 12% were satisfied and 10% strongly satisfied; 24% were neutral.

Wright said the most significant take-away is that while those who could provide funding for broadband at the state level believe the town of Hope is well served, the survey showed that 84% of those who responded are unserved by the definition of being below 10 Mbps. Only 16% are served according to the survey.

"ConnectMe has the town at nearly 100% served," he said in an email. "The implications of that is the fact that grant money is allocated based on flawed information. Hope is overlooked because the assumption is we're served.... We are NOT...!"

"It’s amazing that this is such an uphill battle for us to convince service providers to take our money via monthly service fees."

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Claire Adams | Sep 12, 2020 11:47

Hmm...sure seems to be a focus on being politically correct without any attention to the concerns raised about high expenses and sub par road maintenance.  The town select board votes by secret ballot, and the members are talking about curse words? Yikes! What do you have to fear by not being transparent? Why not consider ways to give the tax payers a break by the solid numbers; instead they hold secret sessions.  Sounds like there might be a swamp that needs draining.  Good luck Hope tax payers.

Posted by: John Monroe | Sep 10, 2020 23:59

Naomi Gagne,

I guess you must not of attended the meeting? So please don't give references to a Bible verse and then turn and cast stones at the Road commissioner,  yes "shameful, at the least".

1.The Road commissioner did give examples of incompetence (without calling it examples of incompetence) in his road commissioners report and did not name any person. It was in regards to very bad bookkeeping in the roads account. It wouldn't of been brought up but the board expects a financial report on roads with deadlines to make. It is such a mess that there is nothing to give them if you want to no the truth.

2. The Road commissioner didn't call anyone incompetent at the meeting. It was "stated" by  someone else at the meeting, regarding a  Facebook post.

Please DO attend these meetings to learn what is being said before casting your stones.

Posted by: Naomi Gagne | Sep 09, 2020 19:56

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." - John 8:7.

Too easy to see and hear that Washington, D. C. has come to the idyllic Town of Hope.  It seems there are many who are finger pointing and name calling.  Shameful, at the least.

The Town Road Commissioner calling another person "incompetent" without citing examples of this incompetence.  Statements made without substantiation only add fuel to the fire.

The selectboard says it is following the advice of the town attorney in regards to the current personnel issues involving present and past employees and another person that serves the Town of Hope.  Let the selectboard see that the correct course of action is being done.

Please do not attend these meeting with the intentions of accusing someone.  Attend these meetings to learn what is being done by the selectboard to resolve these personnel issues.



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