BELLOWS FALLS -- A village trustee is furious with fellow government officials for what she considers rogue behavior that undermines the work of the charter revision committee she spearheads.
Deborah Wright said a public hearing crumbled into chaos last Tuesday when the actions of an ad-hoc committee led to the focus being shifted from the changes put forth by the revision committee to recommendations -- which she said have not been subjected to legal review -- made by the ad-hoc committee.
Wright said attention was deliberately steered away from the revision committee's proposed changes to the charter.
The ad-hoc committee, she said, consists of Municipal Manager Timothy Cullenen, Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee, Bellows Falls Village President Roger Riccio, Town Clerk Doreen Aldrich, Assistant Town Clerk Brenda Doherty and Village Clerk Kerry Bennett.
Wright said the ad-hoc committee was not authorized by the Board of Trustees, which she said is required. But MacPhee, who did not attend Tuesday's hearing, said no ad-hoc committee exists and it is merely a group of town officials that had some questions about the proposed changes. He said the whole notion of conspiracy has been fictionalized.
"That's of their own making," he said in a telephone interview on Monday. "They can dream up whatever situation they want to on it."
He added, however, that the changes proposed by the charter revision committee
Cullenen said the term of ad-hoc committee is inappropriate and the group formed when Aldrich and Doherty needed more information about the revision committee's proposed changes. He said Bennett got involved and the three clerks decided to hold a meeting to go over the proposed adjustments.
MacPhee said he happened to be at Rockingham Town Hall signing warrants at the time and asked to sit in on the meeting. He said Riccio and Cullenen were also present.
Cullenen said the group took the electronic version of the proposed changes and crossed out a few things and added some different wording. He and MacPhee said the group was merely offering additional recommendations for changes to the village charter.
"I think (Wright) is overreacting," Cullenen said. "There was no attempt to derail the work of the revision committee."
Wright described the actions of what she calls the ad-hoc committee as a death charge meant to manipulate the public hearing and prevent an appropriate discussion about the proposed changes the revision committee took a long time to devise.
Wright said a meeting to discuss and review the ad-hoc committee's recommendations is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. today at Village Square Booksellers.
Last Tuesday's public hearing was the first of two scheduled, as required by Vermont law, to allow village residents an opportunity to express concerns and ask questions about the revision committee's proposed edits to the village charter.
Doherty previously told the Reformer that state law requires the first of the two obligatory hearings to be held no fewer than 30 days before the vote is slated to take place. There is no deadline for the second hearing but no changes to the wording of the proposed amendments can be made within 20 days of the vote.
The second public hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Rockingham Town Hall Lower Theatre. Wright said it is still planned, though there is an item on today's Board of Trustees agenda that could postpone it to a later date.
The vote on the proposed changes is slated for Thursday, Oct. 4.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.