Ousted conservation chief awaiting response to open meeting law complaint in Hadley

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE STAFF

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2021 9:25:58 AM

HADLEY — Hadley’s former Conservation Commission chairwoman is still awaiting a response to her complaint against the Select Board that members violated the Open Meeting Law before making a decision to remove her from the appointed position.

More than two weeks after the complaint was filed, Paulette Kuzdeba said Thursday that she has not yet gotten a response, but understands that the board filed a request for an extension with the state Attorney General’s Office.

Kuzdeba alleges that prior to the July 7 meeting, some board members discussed her reappointment, and shrinking the size of the commission from seven to six members. Kuzdeba also contends that she was reappointed at the Select Board’s June 23 meeting when it approved a consent agenda.

If Kuzdeba doesn’t return to the commission, and Janice Stone, the lone paid conservation staff member, follows through with her resignation this week, applicants are likely to see increased costs associated with permitting and review of wetlands on projects, Kuzdeba said. 

The commission, she said, has no one schooled in surveying wetlands and projects will require applicants to pay for independent professional peer reviews.

“It could be months before someone is hired,” Kuzdeba said.

Even if the town is able to hire a new conservation staff person, it will take time for that employee to get up to speed, and the commission may not be able to handle the workload in the meantime, she said.

The Select Board at its meeting next Wednesday, though, is expected to make new appointments to the commission, which is down to four members due to resignations of two members in protest of Kuzdeba’s removal.

Residents continue to send comments to the Select Board about the changes to the commission, including one from town treasurer Linda Sanderson, who focused on the possible costs to the town and that several budgets might be overspent.

“I hope you will decide to reconsider your decision, leave the full Conservation Commission intact and let the reappointments of all prior members stand,” Sanderson wrote. “It’s been a rocky two weeks and I’m sure the vast majority of the town would appreciate your bringing much-needed stability back to town operations.”

Her letter elaborates that Kuzdeba brought experience and expertise to the position at no cost to the town, and that Stone doesn’t bill for all hours she works, and that when she does it is a modest $20 per hour fee.

“These are professional, not clerical services, and will cost us accordingly,” Sanderson wrote.

Other potential costs include fees for attorneys from KP Law to provide legal advice and a potential loss of $1 million in savings from the water and sewer infrastructure on Route 9 that will coincide with the project to rebuild and widen the roadway.

Sanderson’s letter is one of 28 the board has received from residents objecting to the changes made to the commission.

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

 




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