The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 20, 2001


Kiely resigns from ConsCom
Commission chair cites interference
with attempt to obtain state funds
The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) and the Town of Carlisle lost the services of chair and commissioner Carolyn Kiely when she submitted her resignation as of April 6. Although her formal letter, addressed to the board of selectmen, did not refer to the series of events that precipitated the action, her subsequent communications to her fellow commissioners and to the Mosquito did.

The story is one that reveals some of the recognized drawbacks of the otherwise appealing system of volunteer boards that are appointed or elected to fulfill most of the regulatory and policy making functions of town government One problem is faulty communication between boards and the other a frequent disparity in priorities. Both factors seem to have played a part in an episode everybody involved wishes had not occurred.

It began with a letter to Kiely from state senator Susan Fargo’s office, dated February 26, 2001 that announced that the Senate Ways and Means Committee would begin drafting the state’s Fiscal Year 2002 budget within the next couple of months and that the senator wanted to give the commission “an opportunity to convey to me Carlisle’s wish list.” As a one-time legislative aide to former state senator Carol Amick, Kiely was comfortable with the workings of the state legislature and talked to Fargo’s assistant, who encouraged her to pursue possible state funding for repair of the Greenough Dam. Feeling that the possibility of state funding might strengthen the commission’s warrant article request for a $13,050 study of the dam problem, Kiely asked ConsCom if they wished her to pursue the opening, and they authorized her to do so at their March 22 meeting.

Kiely was informed she would need to talk to Fargo’s budget person to coordinate the effort, and she reached her on April 4. She learned that the Senator was scheduled to meet with the Senate budget chairman near the end of the month. She also was alerted to the fact that the budget process was already moving through the house and that Kiely needed to contact representative Carol Cleven immediately, which she did. Cleven told her it was already too late to discuss the request in committee, but she would be willing to present it from the floor. However, she needed a letter of endorsement from the selectmen the next day to go with the technical material that Kiely had already put together for Fargo and could send on to her.

Kiely called ConsCom administrator Sylvia Willard to tell her what was needed and left the message on her answering machine. When Willard returned to her desk, she asked town administrator Madonna McKenzie to listen to Kiely’s message. The administrator has told the Mosquito she didn’t know what to do at that point, since this was the first she had heard about the Beacon Hill budget request. More to the point, the selectmen had not discussed it, and they were not scheduled to meet until the next Tuesday night. Willard conveyed to Kiely the fact that McKenzie felt $60,000 was insufficient to cover the dam costs and the commissioner responded that if the administrator wanted to raise it to $100,000, that was fine

A subsequenttelephone call from McKenzie to Kiely was not answered and the administrator left a recorded message asking the commissioner to call her. Unfortunately, when Kiely received that request, she did not have McKenzies direct line and was forced to leave her own reply on the administrative secretary’s machine. The message, which McKenzie never received, repeated the fact that Kiely would be in Town Hall first thing Thursday to see that the materials for Cleven went out by express.

Meanwhile, it was getting late in the office day, and McKenzie felt she should inform Cleven that she could not write the requested letter without the selectmen’s okay. In talking to Cleven, she added that passage of the warrant article calling for funding of the dam study might or might not pass at Town Meeting, and that the selectmen had not decided whether to support the article or not. She also considered $60,000 to be too low and pointed out that the actual cost would not be known until the dam study was complete. However, she reports that Cleven repeated her willingness to present the budget request, if she received the materials on time. McKenzie told her to withdraw the request, because the town was not ready to submit it.

This was the news that greeted Kiely when she arrived at Town Hall, Thursday, April 5. She has told her colleagues and the Mosquito that McKenzie told her she had exceeded her authority and informed her that, even if the dam study showed that the repair work was needed, there was no guarantee the town would support the project. Also, since the dam has been in disrepair for some time, there should be no particular rush, an opinion which Kiely pointed out ran counter to the state inspector’s report. To McKenzie’s argument that Cleven felt the chances of getting the money this year were not too good, Kiely argued that, although legislative funding the first year of a request was indeed “iffy,” it was important to go through with it, if only to strengthen an application next year. Kiely says she felt then, and repeats now that, if the call to Cleven had not been made on April 4, she could have sent off all the informational material needed, namely the formal funding request, a briefing paper on the Greenough Dam requirements, the report of the State Office of Dam Safety, the Town Warrant article information and the winning proposal for engineering design preparation. She would then have called Cleven and explained that the letter from the selectmen would have to follow after their Tuesday meeting. But since the damage had already been done and her work appeared to have been for nothing, she went home and wrote her letter of resignation.

Kiely further reports that when selectman Michael Fitzgerald called her on Wednesday, April 11 to talk to her about her reasons for resigning and urge her to reconsider, he told her that had he known there was possible funding involved, he would have called a special selectmen’s meeting. Kiely says he then asked what it would take to remedy the situation. Her answer was that the selectmen would need to call the offices of both legislators to explain what had happened and see if the request might still be put back on track.

At their April 12 meeting the conservation commission discussed the draft of a letter to the selectmen expressing support of their former chair and making their displeasure at the turn of events clear. To quote from parts of the letter as sent: “The recent interference with the application for state funds to repair the Greenough Dam has left the conservation commission troubled and perplexed. We feel that our ability to manage the town’s conservation lands has been severely damaged.....We have more than likely lost our chance to obtain state funds for the repairs. Much more important, however, is the loss of Kiely from the commission....She has been an exemplary chairman and commissioner, using hr government contacts on several occasions to the Town’s benefit...Kiely, with the commission’s unanimous approval, was taking action for the stewardship of the most important tract of conservation land in town. Only the Board of Selectmen can remedy the damage that has been done.”

During a phone call with Fitzgerald on April 16, he described the letter as being “rather strong, to be frank”. He also backed McKenzie’s assessment that the Town was not prepared to go for the funds. Later that evening current ConsCom chair Tom Brownrigg called the Mosquito to say that the selectmen “were not pleased” by the strong language in the letter and had suggested a joint meeting to attempt to iron out differences. Kiely’s comment on hearing about the proposed meeting was to observe that, “The best interests of Carlisle have to prevail over a few ruffled feathers, and that’s what’s important.”