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July 9, 2013

Ex-selectmen files complaint against town board

WEST NEWBURY – Tom Atwood, former selectman and the newest member of the Board of Assessors, has lodged a formal complaint against the town’s Conservation Agent and put elected officials on the Conservation Commission on notice as well.

Atwood attended a selectmen’s meeting last week to follow up on the complaint, which involves an incident at his Hilltop Circle home at the end of June. He charges

that Conservation Agent Jay Smith illegally trespassed on his property and behaved in a rude and harassing manner toward him.

Atwood pushed for selectmen to set a date for a personnel hearing, saying he hopes it will be an opportunity for positive change. He feels the town needs a better defined policy on when and how town employees and officials can visit a private citizen’s property, what their attitude should be while working with the public, and what their knowledge level of state and town bylaws should be.

Selectmen unanimously voted to set the hearing for July 29 at 7 p.m. Atwood and his attorney also scheduled a meeting with the Conservation Commission for July 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Because she wasn’t present at Atwood’s property on the day of the incident and has subsequently learned that Atwood has hired legal representation, Conservation Commission Chairman Dawne Fusco was hesitant when reached to comment about his encounter with Smith.

But she did say that in all her years working closely on conservation issue with Smith and the two commissioners named in Atwood’s complaint -- Judy Mizner and Wendy Reed -- she has never seen any of them treat the public rudely.

She said by definition the conservation board isn’t always the most popular committee in town because they often have to regulate how people use their property.

But over the years she and the rest of the board have found ways to diffuse tense situations.

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