, Newburyport, MA

March 22, 2013

Outgoing selectman fears return of 'circus' days

Kelly uses final meeting to deliver sharp message

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SEABROOK — After losing his bid for re-election last week, Selectman Brendan Kelly used his last meeting to address some of his most vocal critics and bid them a not-so-fond farewell.

In a prepared statement, he called a recount that has arisen out of the election for his seat a further move to return what he sees as the “circus” atmosphere that had once punctuated the Board of Selectmen.

Kelly saw his-six year tenure as selectman come to an end when he placed fourth out of a field of six candidates in last Tuesday’s election.

Eric Small topped the field, but later declined to accept the seat citing health concerns.

In addition, Paul Knowles, who finished last in the race, has requested a recount, which is set to be conducted today.

At Wednesday’s meeting, only Kelly, who remained on the board pending the completion of the recount, and Selectman Aboul Khan were in attendance, with Selectman Ed Hess absent.

Kelly moved, and Khan approved, tabling all agenda items except one, which concerned approving a state form that had to be submitted by April 1.

Kelly said he voted to approve the form in light of Hess’ absence, saying the town would miss the deadline without his vote.

“I didn’t expect to be here tonight,” said Kelly, who found himself in the position of serving until the recount was completed. “I have no intention of voting on anything that should be handled by the new board.”

Two of the other losing selectmen’s candidates — Maria Brown and Paula Wood — used the meeting as an opportunity to take Kelly and Khan to task for the way they handled Small’s decision not to serve.

Both women believe selectmen should have discussed the issue in an open meeting instead of meeting privately with town counsel, calling the private meeting a violation of state law.

Last Friday, upon learning of Small’s decision, all three selectmen conducted an emergency consultation with their attorney, Robert Ciandella, behind closed doors. Under state law, such sessions, known as nonmeetings with counsel, are allowed to be conducted in private without posting the notice publicly.

During the conference with Ciandella, Khan and Kelly learned that under state law and the town charter, selectmen are responsible for appointing Small’s replacement, who would serve only until the next scheduled election in March 2014. They also learned that the town charter holds that whenever possible, the runner-up in the election — who in this case was Raymond Smith — should be appointed.

Town Manager Joe Titone, on Ciandella’s advice, contacted Smith to see if he’d be willing to serve for the year, if appointed. Smith signed a one-sentence letter of intent stating he would. But Smith wasn’t appointed at the nonpublic meeting and officials said no one would be appointed until the recount is decided. Following the recount, selectmen will formally choose a replacement at a public meeting, they said.

Although Titone contacted Smith to see if he would be willing to serve, Khan, Kelly, Titone and Smith have repeatedly said Smith was not part of Friday’s nonpublic session, was not appointed at the session and that no votes were taken at that time.

The comments from Brown and Wood drew a warning from Kelly.

“I served six years and did the best I could,” Kelly said. “I understand there was a group effort to make sure I didn’t (serve) anymore. Be careful how you push me.”

Kelly ended the meeting by delivering a prepared statement in which he discussed how lucky he felt since moving to Seabrook and serving the people in town as their selectman. Kelly said although he lost, he has had been pleased that Small earned the most votes, feeling Small had been the best of the other candidates.

But as the statement continued, its mood changed.

“I ran for selectman because in my heart I knew I could do a better job than the circus act leading us at the time,” Kelly said. “My opinion is that 2012 turned out to be an effort to bring the circus act back to town government.

“...The recount of the selectmen’s (race) results is a further step to keep the hope of reinstating the Seabrook selectmen’s circus of days gone by.”