Hadley community preservation chairman loses seat by mistake

  • Andy Morris-Friedman speaks at the Norwottuck Rail Trail Rehabilitation groundbreaking ceremony in 2013. Ayrika Whitney

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2020 1:59:33 PM
Modified: 8/7/2020 1:59:22 PM

HADLEY — For the past six years, the chairman of the town’s Community Preservation Act Committee has shepherded a variety of projects to Town Meeting for funding and been a strong advocate for protecting open space and historic assets.

But even as Andy Morris-Friedman anticipated continuing to be part of the panel until 2021, and likely remaining its chairman, he was unaware that his term expired and that he was no longer a committee member after a July 8 vote by the Select Board.

That evening, three residents who had submitted letters of interest, incumbents Edwin Matuszko and Mary Thayer, and newcomer Cassaundra Gonazalez, were named to the committee.

On Wednesday, despite pleas from Morris-Friedman and other residents advocating for his reinstatement, the Select Board opted against reconsidering its earlier vote.

Chairman David J. Fill II said that he was troubled by Morris-Friedman’s actions since the decision, including asking another member to resign so he could stay on the committee, and speculating in writing about the board having a vendetta against him.

“The behavior after the fact kind of makes me doubt you going forward for supporting you for a position like that,” Fill said.

“The best path would have been to reach out to myself as chair,” Fill added. 

Select Board member Joyce Chunglo called it an “unfortunate occurrence” that Morris-Friedman didn’t ask to be reappointed.

Without removing a member or changing the bylaw at Town Meeting, Town Administrator David Nixon said, the Select Board couldn’t add Morris-Friedman back to the panel.

Morris-Friedman apologized to the board, both for his anger after being apprised of the situation and for not sending a letter of interest, which he attributed in part to health issues he has faced. He acknowledged that he did speak to Gonzalez at her home about whether she would be willing to withdraw.

“I really thought my appointment was up next year and thought I had another year to serve,” Morris-Friedman said.

He also explained the work he has done.

“The CPA needs a strong chair in order to make sure rules are following and everybody is treated fairly,” Morris-Friedman said. “I think I did that as chair.”

Among those advocating for Morris-Friedman were Shel Horowitz of Barstow Lane, who said notices should have been sent out to members before their terms expired, and Peter Maleady of Mount Warner Road, who wondered if the Select Board could make an exception in this case.

“It would be a shame to lose the dedication and experience Andy has brought to this committee,” Maleady said.

At the July 8 meeting, Finance Committee Chairwoman Amy Fyden told the board that Morris-Friedman believed he was still on the committee and acting as its chairman. But board members, without a letter of interest from him, acted anyway.

Select Board member Christian Stanley and Jane Nevinsmith voted to postpone the decision, but the other three members rejected that and proceeded to vote 4-1 for the members, with only Stanley voting against.

Chunglo at the time said people know how to apply and that it would be good to have fresh faces involved in town government.

Nevinsmith said she would like to see a policy to notify people of expiring terms.

“Communication has got to improve,” Nevinsmith said.

Fill said no letters have been going to out to anyone with terms expiring for at least five years, before his term on the Select Board, but that could change. 

In addition, Fill apologized to Morris-Friedman for not alerting him right away following the July 8 vote. “The professional thing would have been the notify you immediately,” Fill said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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