A Letter from Richard McClure
McClure addresses the town manager, selectmen and residents.
Open Letter to the Residents of Chelmsford, Town Manager, Paul Cohen, and the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen
As you are all well aware, the town manager has filed a complaint against me with the State Ethics Commission. As Mr. Cohen takes his direction from the Board of Selectmen, I must presume the Board is complicit in his decision regarding same. Not having received the professional courtesy of a copy of said complaint, I will have to accept Mr. Cohen’s explanation for his reasoning which he delivered to me via live commentary on last Saturday’s WCAP morning show.
Apparently, Mr. Cohen feels that I am in violation of state and local ethics regulations which purport to prevent an elected public official from acting as the attorney for parties who wish to bring legal action against the Town. Obviously, Mr. Cohen is referring to my representation as the attorney for myself, my family and over 400 voters from the town of Chelmsford in a recent Petition for Preliminary Injunction filed in Middlesex Superior Court.
Contrary to Mr. Cohen’s selective version of the facts, I do not represent anyone seeking the recall of 4 current members of the Board of Selectmen. I represented myself, my family and over 400 Chelmsford voters who believed that the voters who signed recall affidavits are legally entitled, under the town’s Charter, to have 14 days during which to seek signatures for such a recall election.
The town charter’s 14 day window for gathering such signatures is explicit; an 8th grade political science student of average intelligence could read the charter provision and ascertain its common meaning. Apparently, the town manager, members of the Board of Selectmen and town counsel are not so gifted. In fact, they spent thousands of your tax dollars to obtain a contrary opinion from town counsel. As four of the five current Selectmen are the subject of the recall petition, their ridiculous decision to challenge the charter provision in Court logically draws suspicion as to their motivation.
Over the course of 48 hours, I appealed, in writing with the town clerk, the town manager and the board of selectmen to not waste the taxpayers’ money litigating over such a common sense issue. Although he later publicly denied it, Selectman Jon Kurland was explicit in his emails to me, stating “I believe that town counsel''s interpretation of the by-laws is correct… and…I still agree with Town Counsel on this” (copies available upon request).
Following a lengthy court hearing (for which the town manager and town clerk commandeered a Chelmsford police cruiser and policeman for their unneccessary attendance; a weak attempt to dramatize the town government’s alleged concern over this non-issue), the Court granted the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, Ordering that the town clerk allow a full, 14-day window for the petitioners to gather signatures for a recall election.
I estimate that town counsel, Kopelman & Paige, will most likely bill the taxpayers over $300 per hour for the TWO attorneys assigned to this case and the most-likely ten hours which they expended on this fool’s errand. Although permitted by statute, I will NOT file a motion for attorney’s fees and costs against the town for successfully obtaining said injunction; I consider it a public service. And as to Mr. Cohen’s complaint to the state ethics commission alleging that I cannot, as an elected official, act as an attorney in matters which the town is a party, I must inform you Mr. Cohen that my services were provided “pro bono” (a simple latin term which, in translation, means “your ethics complaint against me is doomed to failure”).
Mr. Cohen claims that he is required by law, as town manager, to report such alleged ethics violations by elected town officials to the state ethics commission. One must wonder where this new-found sense of duty was while the Board of Selectmen were giving away a prime piece of town-encumbered real estate (9 North Road) as a retirement present to a former colleague. Where was Mr. Cohen’s conscience when the Board of Selectmen, whose recall was being sought, ordered him to spend taxpayers’ dollars to fight such a recall?
Prior to Mr. Cohen’s (and the Board of Selectmen’s) complaint against me, I truly had no strong feelings regarding the recall election either way; following said complaint, I will spend the next 13 days gathering signatures for the recall election. The childish, petty, wasteful and self-serving actions, taken by the Board of Selectmen to deprive voters of their constitutional right to petition, in itself, warrants their recall. Mr. Cohen, as you are, unfortunately, not subject to such a recall, I publicly demand (again) your resignation, effective immediately.
Richard P. McClure, Esquire
p.s. Mr. Cohen, the next time you take a ride in the back of a Chelmsford Police cruiser, I hope it’s the driver who is on official town business!