In the western Massachusetts town of Hinsdale, more than 300 residents are calling for the resignation of the town’s Select Board chair.
The petition delivered by former Select Board chair David Kokindo at Wednesday’s meeting is the latest development in an escalating situation in the town of 2,000.
“The town of Hinsdale’s politics has been very venomous for a very, very long time,” said Kokindo.
At the last meeting in November, the Select Board placed Police Chief Nancy Daniels on paid administrative leave. Due to emergency surgery in April and an ankle injury in the summer, Daniels has failed to complete the state-required six-month Municipal Police Training Academy needed to be a full-time officer in the commonwealth. Placing Daniels back on part-time status has led to animosity directed at Chair Bonnie Conner.
“There’s only one reason that they don’t support me,” Conner said. “If they don’t want to go to the website and read the state rules and they want to believe, and I’m going to out-right say it, if they want to believe lies that are being spread, rumors, innuendo and everything then that’s their choice. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
A 13-year veteran of the force, Daniels signed a three-year contract with the town in January to become the full-time chief. At the time she was granted a waiver that allowed her to serve without going through the necessary training, but it has since expired. She plans to enroll in the next academy in February and is hoping more information comes from next week’s executive session involving herself, the town’s counsel and an attorney representing the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
“They put me in as full-time with the agreement that I go to the academy which I’ve made every attempt to do that and unfortunately I haven’t be able to accomplish that yet,” Daniels said. “But, it’s not over till it’s over. So hopefully next week we’ll have some more answers and we’ll just keep going.”
Bonnie Conner has chaired the Select Board for the last five months and says the former board shouldn’t have hired Daniels until she was qualified.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Conner admitted. “Considering that we’re really not getting much help and that we have a certain bunch of people whose criteria it is to do nothing but give you a bad time and waste your time with frivolous things. They want to waste all your time and keep you from doing anything and getting anything done.”
Conner says she wanted to serve on the board to straighten out recent town politics that have prompted state police being called to town meetings. Conner says the incidents involved a network of “venomous people.” Conner took the public comment period off the meeting agenda for three weeks because she says it has become a time for verbal assault.
“Basically I took it off the agenda for two or three weeks to try to get people to quiet down and get a grip and it made them worse,” she explained. “So, put it back on, let them vent.”
Kokindo, who served as Select Chair from 2011 to 2012, says he stepped down because he was unhappy with the way the town was running. He says it took about three weeks to gather more than 300 signatures for the petition.
“The hope of the petition is to, if Bonnie elects to keep the position she likes, is to actually start to listen to the will of the people, not just a certain few select,” said Kokindo.
Kokindo says he will also present the petition to state lawmakers in support of a bill that would allow for the recall of elected officials if a petition is signed by at least 25 percent of registered voters who voted in the previous gubernatorial election. The bill has been referred to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Election Laws. The town’s seven part-time officers are helping to cover Daniel’s full-time shift. The next meeting is December 11th.