Mieczkowski: ‘Show me where this is racist’

  • Hadley Planning Board member John Mieczkowski, second from right, along with other members of the board at a meeting on Sept. 18, 2018.  STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/15/2019 3:52:52 PM

HADLEY — As a Planning Board member continues to come under fire for what some in the community are calling racist comments he made at a recent public meeting, the board is expected to deal with the matter on Tuesday evening.

The agenda for the Planning Board meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Senior Community Center, shows an executive session at some point during the night to “discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer.”

A public records request under the state’s Open Meeting Law, filed with the Planning Board, reveals the board received four written complaints about John Mieczkowski’s comments at the March 5 meeting, in which he referenced the Indian heritage of an applicant and advised the applicant, who is planning open a repair garage in North Hadley, not to bring camels to the next meeting. Two of the complaints came from Select Board members.

Mieczkowski continues to maintain he did nothing inappropriate, and that his critics are those who want him off the board.

“Show me where this is racist," Mieczkowski said Friday. “I have no intent to be a bigot, a racist, a sexist or whatever.”

Select Board member Molly Keegan requested that the Planning Board address Mieczkowski’s comments, which she described in a letter to the Planning Board as “racist” and  “incredibly insensitive and offensive.” She also expressed her displeasure that the other four Planning Board members didn't call him out for his remarks that night. 

“Mr. Mieczkowski made a completely inappropriate reference involving ‘camels’ that, joking or not, crossed a clear line,” Keegan wrote. “I am equally appalled at the silence from his fellow board members.”

She added that Mieczkowski’s comments reflect on the community and others in elected positions.

Keegan added, “Shame on the Planning Board for not addressing it immediately. I would like a formal response on how you intend to handle it now to be sure nothing like this occurs again.”

Select Board member Christian Stanley wrote a letter to the board after the Gazette reported on and sought a response from Mieczkowski, who defended his comments:

“Even after a complaint was filed by my fellow Select Board member, Molly Keegan soon after the meeting, Mr. Mieczkowski appears to be unapologetic about these comments as he was quoted in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on March 9, 2019 saying ‘It was just a joke’ and that ‘It’s no big deal.’  Frankly, to me, this is an embarrassment to the Town of Hadley.”

Stanley suggested finding an appropriate disciplinary action to take against Mieczkowski so that all residents and visitors can be assured they are being treated with respect and have a right to be in the community without discrimination and intimidation.

Now facing a write-in challenge for the Planning Board seat from resident Mark Dunn at the April 9 election, Mieczkowski said he wants to continue to serve.

“I’m sincere in what I do. Maybe I’m not politically correct, but it’s too late for that,” Mieczkowski said.

He added that the reference to camels was a metaphor for not bringing ugly plans to the board for approval.

The other two written complaints came from residents.

Janice Jorgensen of River Drive called for strong action, including having Mieczkowski removed from the board because his language was offensive and “other minorities, including myself, are threatened because of John Mieczkowski Sr.’s language.”

Sara Hills of Meadowbrook Drive asked for censure of the “odious remarks” in a written complaint to the Planning Board. 

“His abhorrent, racist remarks have no place in our town’s government and I believe he should be censured,” Hill wrote. 

Though Mieczkowski was removed from his position on the Select Board office in a recall vote in 2002, he contends that the main reason driving that was his effort to fire a former town administrator over an aborted gift of $200,000 from the Pyramid Corp., which owns the Hampshire Mall. The company stated it would not provide this money for a new fire truck if it did not receive or use all necessary zoning and building permits. Voters were still told to move forward with the nearly $500,000 purchase of a new combination ladder/pumper. 

Mieczkowski said he has seen a pattern of deception by town officials, claiming they have lied and tricked residents into voting for various capital projects underway, including a new senior center, library and fire substation, by lowballing the real costs.

“My only motives are to support taxpayers,” Mieczkowski said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com
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