Mount Greylock Chairman Threatens To Resign Over Public RecordsBy Andy McKeever
05:29PM / Wednesday, March 21, 2012
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The chairman of the Mount Greylock Regional High School Committee is threatening to resign after comments he made were stricken from the public record.
Chairman Robert Ericson wants to keep warnings he made about potential litigation in the records but other committee members feel that it opens the district up to legal troubles.
Chairman Robert Ericson said Tuesday that removing comments he made warning of legal trouble with a proposed cell phone tower from the unapproved meeting minutes of Jan. 17 was "a slap in the face" and threatened to resign if they were not re-written.
However, committee members felt they could not oblige because of the possibility of legal turmoil since the cell tower company is now threatening a lawsuit alleging that the school did not provide enough support.
The committee eventually postponed approval of those minutes for a second time, agreeing to take them up in April.
The January minutes reflected a conversation board members had regarding Florida Tower Partners' proposed wind tower. The committee decided not to take action in allowing the company to look at a third location. Ericson said then that taking no action could result in a lawsuit. His statement was originally documented but, in February, Committee member David Langston motioned to strike the discussion from the record.
"It gets us into murky legal water and I'd rather avoid all of it," Langston said in February and was supported by committee member Heather Williams.
However, the board agreed to postpone approval of those minutes until March. In the meantime, the committee's new secretary Carolyn "Carrie" Greene redrafted the minutes — which were originally taken by Abigail Reifsnyder before she resigned — and updated the draft upon Williams and Langston's suggestion. On Tuesday, Ericson pushed to add that discussion back into the record.
"I take umbrage with the changing of what I said in a public meeting, by changing the records to falsify it," Ericson said. "I feel the School Committee did not do their due diligence on it. If you want to abridge my rights to free speech and remove from the minutes what I said, feel free to do so but I will resign from the committee."
Ericson said the committee has given each other the "courtesy" of clarifying comments in the record in the past and asking to keep his comments on record is not "unreasonable."
Langston countered by saying the legal ramifications justify removing the language. The minutes are not intended to be a strict transcription of the minutes but rather to document the committee's transactions, he said, adding that the language puts the school in jeopardy and should be scaled back.
"I agree you said them and I agree that under normal circumstances a courtesy should be extended, but in this case [with legal ramifications], I think it puts us in a position we don't want to be in," Langston said.
Committee member Jack Hickey questioned Ericson about what was being accomplished by keeping the comments in the record. Ericson responded with harsh words about the committee's actions.
"I made statements that I would like to remain on the public record," Ericson said. "We all have part in proposing the cell tower at this location. We refused to work with the cell tower company and as a result, we have then put ourselves in jeopardy and we've pissed off $250,000 in income over the next 10 years."
The cell tower issue has been dogging the committee since it made an agreement with Florida Tower Partners more than two years ago. The tower's proposed location has moved around the school, then off the property, then back on, running into rejections from neighbors and the Zoning Board of Appeals along the way.
The ZBA denial means the company has to wait two years to apply for another permit. Now it's threatening to sue the school district, claiming to have spent more than $100,000 in planning and permitting.