Voters in the small western Massachusetts town of Hinsdale will decide whether they want the ability to recall elected officials at a special town meeting Wednesday.
If the plan is given the go-ahead, 100 registered voters would be able to initiate recall measures at any given time for reasons of “lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, corruption, malfeasance, or violation of oath.” From there, 20 percent of the town’s roughly 1,400 registered voters would have to sign a recall petition. If the elected official facing removal does not resign within five days of receiving written notice, a recall election would be held at least 64 days after but no more than 90 days after. More than 300 townspeople signed a citizen petition requesting the special meeting. David Kokindo, a former Select Chair who stepped down in 2012 because he says he was unhappy with the way the town was being run, headed the effort. Kokindo, who lost a bid for a seat on the Select Board to Bill Goddard in last year’s election, started gathering the signatures near the end of 2013. He delivered the petition to the Selectboard in January.
“They’re not addressing the town’s issues I don’t think at all and to actually do what they did with the police department really created more of a mess,” Kokindo said.
Since the Select Board placed former police chief Nancy Daniels on paid administrative leave in November 2013, the meetings have been chock-full of audience outbursts and disgruntlement toward Select Chair Bonnie Conner and Selectman Goddard. Residents attending the meetings have made claims of a personal vendetta against Daniels. Conner insists the decision was made solely because Daniels failed to complete the Municipal Police Training Academy needed to serve as a full-time officer in the state.
“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.”
In January, the Select Board hired a temporary police chief, and Daniels has since said she is no longer an employee of the town. Bruce Marshall has been a Selectman for 36 years and was joined on the board by Conner and Goddard last year.
“At this point nothing is being done,” Marshall said. “Nothing has been done since they [Bill Goddard and Bonnie Conner] have been elected here. It’s been all police chief. Don’t know when it’s going to all end. But, it better end pretty soon because they’re going to destroy this town.”
The article would also bar any elected official who was removed via recall election or resigned after a recall petition was filed from serving in a town office for two years. Also, a recall petition could not be brought against a person within the first six months of being in office. If the recall article passes, it will need to be brought to the state Legislature and the governor to be signed into law. A similar law in the Franklin County town of Northfield passed in 2012. Tonight’s meeting at Kittredge Elementary School starts at 7 p.m.