In the event that enjoying summer days has meant that you've gotten somewhat behind on local news, you may not be aware that our Town Council has most assuredly not given up on its goal to document and memorialize rules of conduct and behavior for Bedford's adult residents who serve on the Town's boards, commissions, and committees. Tired of putting up with residents who ask embarrassing questions, who point out deficiencies or irregularities, who question legalities, who ask for answers that town "powers" do not want to give, or who worst of all, actually voice their objections to things for which they have valid objections, our elected officials have decided that it's now appropriate to use their elected positions to silence their perceived detractors, and to slowly but surely succeed in removing their critics from boards, commissions, and committees and replace them with people whom they can better control.
Actually, this whole scenario has been fascinating to watch since it first became public back at the April 25th meeting of the Bedford Town Council. On that evening, with absolutely no public disclosure of what was in the proposed code of conduct, Council Chairman Bill Dermody attempted to get quick Council approval of the code, that he reported had been "authored" by Acting Town Manager Crystal Dionne, and "edited" by Town Councilor (and attorney) Chris Bandazian. Coincidentally, such a code was requested (or should we say "suggested") by none other than Bill Greiner to Councilor Bandazian only 21 days earlier at a BCTV Board subcommittee meeting. (In the spirit of full disclosure, Greiner was in a state of pique over various points that I had raised during subcommittee activities, but we'll hold that full story for another day.) Unfortunately for Dermody, Councilor Ken Peterson wasn't so eager to act on the code that night, so the matter was postponed.
A particularly striking part of the discussion on April 25th was Dermody's portrayal that the proposed code had been reviewed and approved by the Town's boards, commissions, and committees that it would regulate. However, that turned out to actually be a huge overstatement since only some individuals who serve on some of these bodies had actually seen it. Even more striking about the proposed code was that it clearly communicated that people who serve on all of these various bodies would be expected to go along with the majority, and to cease and desist voicing any concerns or objections that they might have to any policies, procedures, or actions. In other words, go along, or shut up.
What transpired after April 25th was that a three-person Council panel (Ken Peterson, Mac McMahon, and Jim Scanlon) was charged with further reviewing and editing the proposed code. At the June 13th Council meeting, Councilor McMahon reported that there were several issues for which they were seeking clarification, but all Council members in attendance agreed that a code of conduct is of vast importance to them.
What I really loved though was their lengthy discussion about what was referred to as their goal for "peers to exert pressure" on their fellow board, committee, or commission members to get them to tow the "code of conduct" line. Essentially, the Council is encouraging tattle-tale parties to achieve their goal of silencing and/or banishing their opponents. How it will work is that any member of a board, committee, or commission who is troubled by the "behavior" of another member of his or her group can write a letter to his or her group's chairperson that expresses his or her complaint about the other member. The chairperson may then discuss this complaint with all of the other members of the group in the absence of the person who is the subject of the complaint. The chairperson may then send a letter to the Town Council about the person who is reportedly misbehaving. The Council may then send a letter to the bad boy or the bad girl in which they express their "disappointment" (the Council's word). Whether or not the Council decides to send a "disappointment" letter though, the complaint will be kept on file for consideration when the Council decides whether or not to reappoint the person to the board, committee, or commission.
Do you love this or what??? The Council will be able to put together their own little Santa's list of good boys and good girls for grownups!
At the June 27th Council meeting, the "code" was again discussed, and amid all of the praise for it by Council members, it was clearly evidenced that a major component of it is "the minority should recognize majority opinions" because further objections are "detrimental". Thus, anyone who continues to voice their minority opinion (translate that to anyone who continues to exercise their freedom of speech) will be open to formal complaints being lodged against him or her by any "peer" who chooses to do so, and the complaint(s) will be passed on to the Town Council and become part of an official record. And given some of the past comments and actions of at least a couple of our Council members, you can bet money and win that will indeed happen. Should you doubt it, simply recall how only a few months ago, the behavior and words of Councilor Scanlon against someone whom he doesn't like wound up being investigated by the office of the State Attorney General.
There's much more to be said on the subject of the "code of conduct". Watch this blog as more will be examined in the near future.
Oh yeah . . . if any Council members are reading this blog, print it out and start a dossier on me if you haven't already. I wouldn't want you to forget that at least one person in this town thinks that the Bedford Town Council is clearly out of control. Nor do I want you to forget that at least one person in this town also wonders how much some Council members are being controlled by outside elements. With enough time, that question will be answered by connecting some very interesting dots.