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November 29. 2011 11:05PM

Marlborough case headed to court

MARLBOROUGH — Two residents filed a petition in Cheshire County Superior Court last week accusing the Select Board of several right-to-know law violations.

Select Board member John Northcott says the allegations are untrue.

In the petition, filed Nov. 23, Loretta Simonds and Robert Cameron allege Northcott and the other board members, Lawrence Robinson and Gina Paight, communicated outside of meetings, held meetings without public notice, refused the petitioners access to public records and then altered public records.

“We want them to do town business out in the open, because they are not out in the open,” Simonds said Monday. “They meet on a regular basis via email to talk to each other.”

The petitioners claim the Select Board also attended a Jan. 5 and a Jan. 20 multi-town meeting without notification or documentation.

“These meetings were attended by the town selectmen of Dublin, Harrisville, Marlborough and Nelson to consider the possible consolidation of departments of the four towns,” the petition says.

According to Nelson town meeting minutes, the four towns agreed to raise a warrant article of $6,000 each to pay for an exploratory study of the consolidation of town department resources, the petition says.

Northcott said the Marlborough selectmen attended those meetings as observers and not as a board, so it was not necessary to post the meetings.

“They weren’t meetings. We were invited to go to another town for just a discussion. We went as attendees,” Northcott said. “We didn’t make any decision as a board at those meetings.”

Simonds and Cameron also allege that in June the Select Board entered into an “unknown type of contractual relationship with Municipal Resources Inc.” Billing documentation supplied in the petition as exhibit 3 refers to an “investigation of the Marlborough Police Department.”

“This billing shows that $6,474.47 of Marlborough taxpayer money has been disbursed to MRI by the town attorney,” the petition says, however, the petition goes on to say the board has refused to answer questions about the billing.

Simonds said she and Cameron have been unable to find out why the select board was investigating the police department, but they believe the board was trying to find a way to fire the town’s police chief, Christopher J. Lyons.

Lyons said Tuesday he is aware of the petition, but is not involved in any way.

“I want to continue to work with the Marlborough Board of Selectmen and provide the best police services possible to the residents of Marlborough,” Lyons said.

The petition deals strictly with right-to-know violations and not with the police investigation, Simonds said.

In the petition, Simonds recounts how she happened upon the three-member board Nov. 18 holding an unposted meeting at a cafe on Main Street to discuss the town website.

“Simonds photographed the meeting,” the petition says. “This meeting was pre-arranged according to emails between all parties in attendance (Exhibit 13). When Ms. Simonds asked if a notice of the meeting had been published, Mr. Northcott replied ‘Impromptu.’”

“They have said that it’s all right that they discuss things if they don’t make any decisions and I think that directly contradicts the law,” Cameron said.

Northcott said he looks forward to straightening out what he called numerous misunderstandings.

“We look forward to going to court. We look forward to defending everything they have accused us of,” Northcott said. “We’d like to see it all cleared up for a lot of reasons.”

All of the selectmen are longtime members of the board. Northcott said he has nine years on the board and is the junior member.

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