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UPDATED: Resigning select board member cites town difficulties

Leaders to set date for Special Election for vacancies on the Select Board
By Daniel Dunkle | Mar 04, 2021
Thomas Ingraham has resigned from the Hope Select Board.

Hope — “Consider this my resignation from the Hope Select Board and affiliated committees effective February 26, 2021, at 6 pm.,” Thomas Ingraham wrote. “I am proud of the work that I have done on the Hope School Committee, the Pre-K Committee and the Hope Solar and Broadband Committees. I thank the many town residents who supported my election.

“Over the course of my lifetime I do not recall ever withdrawing from any community organization, but the ongoing difficulties present in Hope’s town government make this decision necessary.”

Ingraham’s resignation comes at just about the same time as that of fellow Select Board member, Amy Gertner.

The board plans to hold a meeting 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4 to discuss setting a date for a special election to fill vacancies on the Select Board. They are also planning to hold a closed-door meeting to perform an evaluation and contract discussion for Town Administrator Samantha Mank. It is one of several events Thursday including the opening of the ballot box from the July 14 election at 4 p.m.

Gertner's resignation was accepted in an emergency board meeting Feb. 26 with only herself, Ingraham and board Chair Sarah Ann Smith present. Gertner’s resignation goes into effect March 12.

Select Board member Bruce Haffner is the subject of a recall petition under the town’s new recall ordinance, and residents will vote in June whether to remove him from the board.

That leaves Smith and Vice Chair Brian Powers. The seat held by Powers is up for election in June.

Smith’s term expires in 2023.

Nomination papers for elected seats became available Feb. 26 at the town office. The following seats are up for election this year:

- One seat for a 3-year term to Select Board, Assessors, and Overseers of the Poor

- One seat for a 2-year term to Select Board, Assessors, and Overseers of the Poor

- Two seats for 3-year terms to the Budget Committee

- Two seats for a 3-year terms to the School Committee

- One seat for a 2-year term to the School Committee

Difficulties

The town government has been in turmoil since August when Town Administrator Samantha Mank fired former bookkeeper Langley Willauer. Willauer in turn publicly criticized Mank including pointing out problems with the counting of the town meeting ballots in the July 14 election. The Select Board acknowledged errors were made in that election.

On Thursday, March 4, at 4 p.m., the board is set to open the ballot box and extract the tally sheets for review.

Also on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. the board plans to hold a closed-door meeting for the town administrator’s annual performance evaluation and contract.

In addition, Amy Powers, wife of Vice Chair Brian Powers, released a secret recording of a phone call between Haffner and Mike Ames in which Haffner talked about the roads budget proposed in the July 14 election and said he would take down town officials including Mank. Haffner has said in previous comments he intended this to mean in the political arena.

On Dec. 8, Smith called on Haffner and Budget Committee member Elinor Goldberg and Willauer, serving as Planning Board chair, to resign. She said she was speaking as a citizen not in her role as board chair.

Goldberg and Haffner are elected officials, and Smith noted that there is a recall process now available to townspeople to remove them from office if they fail to resign on their own. She said it would be inappropriate for her as chair of the board to initiate such a process, but added that option was available to any residents who wanted to take action.

Her husband, Paul, helped gather signatures for the recall and is a frequent critic of Haffner in Select Board meetings.

The recall effort also notes that Haffner campaigned against the roads budget on the July 14 town meeting ballot. The same budget was voted down by the town budget committee over concerns about the high cost of snowplowing and the snowplowing bidding process last year. The budget committee is advisory only.

Budget committee member Elinor Goldberg has also been subject of a recall petition because an email obtained by Sarah Ann Smith via the Freedom of Access Act included Goldberg talking to Willauer and Haffner about wanting to oust Mank.

Smith has also raised the question of removing Willauer from his position of Planning Board Chair, but the Select Board has not taken that action so far.

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