Ousted conservation chief files complaint against Select Board

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE STAFF

Staff Writer
Published: 7/15/2021 5:51:32 PM

HADLEY — Former Conservation Commission Chairwoman Paulette Kuzdeba is seeking a return to the appointed board based on an Open Meeting Law complaint she filed against the Select Board.

In the complaint, filed at Town Hall Wednesday, Kuzdeba alleges her removal from the commission at the July 7 Select Board meeting, coupled with the decision to reduce the commission from seven to six members, was based on one or more discussions three board members — Chairman David J. Fill II and Joyce Chunglo and John Waskiewicz — had outside a posted meeting.

Her complaint also makes the case that she and fellow commissioner Steve Szymkowicz were reappointed to the commission as part of a list of more than 90 people named to various positions in town government via a consent agenda approved by the Select Board at its June 23 meeting. Szymkowicz was subsequently reappointed July 7.

“This is poor management,” Kuzdeba said in an interview Thursday, explaining her reason for making the complaint. “No one on the commission, or our staff member, was notified about the reduction. We have never talked to the board about it.”

Regardless of whether she prevails with the Open Meeting Law complaint, Kuzdeba said the Select Board’s actions have prompted the loss of two additional members by resignation in protest at her removal, as well as the lone conservation staff member, Janice Stone, who intends to depart at the end of July.

“It’s not good management to lose three commission members and a staff member,” Kuzdeba said. “They (the Select Board) did a disservice to the community as a whole.”

This is the second Open Meeting Law complaint against the current Select Board, following one filed by former Select Board member John Allen after the board adopted a policy related to COVID-19 vaccines and access to town buildings and properties. In that case, the board denied it did anything inappropriate, though Allen argues that the subject on the agenda was not specific enough for the public to understand that a policy would be discussed.

More work

Fill has said that the decision to remove Kuzdeba and streamline the Conservation Commission was based on complaints and concerns, many from farmers, about lack of customer service by the commission and difficulties in obtaining permits.

Kuzdeba said the commission was already facing more work as a result of changes to permitting for campers along the Connecticut River. She said 22 site visits related to campsites have been done in recent months, and the commission doubled the number of meetings so each could be reviewed.

“If that’s not customer service, I don’t know what is,” Kuzdeba said,

Many of the complaints made to the Select Board about the commission likely were related to the oversight of the campers, Kuzdeba said, even though the commission relaxed rules. While the Department of Environmental Protection wanted notices of intent filed for all, the commission required less expensive determinations if the trailer was parked in the second 100 feet from the river.

One of the complaints came from Joseph Boisvert, the owner of North Hadley Sugar Shack, related to his purchase of a residential property on French Street, and the commission making work difficult there due to its proximity to the Mill River. He praised the Select Board for making an “overdue” decision.

But Kuzdeba said Boisvert’s objections date back to spring 2020 when she stopped him and crews from cutting trees and shrubs on top of a stream on Knightly Road.

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

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