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Stockbridge selectmen, police department have received unjust criticism

In his letter to the editor, Rich Bradway writes: "To say that our Select Board is working outside of the law or is not being transparent is either a lie or an accusation that is not backed up by facts."

To the Editor:

In recent days there has been many a letter to the editor with respect to the goings on of small town politics in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

The “big” issue seems to be with our Police Department. Personally, I suspect the issue is less about the department and more about who was selected to succeed our retired and beloved Chief [Rick] Wilcox.

When Chief Wilcox retired, I was asked to serve on a committee to search for a new police chief. I was extremely honored to serve in that role. Admittedly, I had reservations of participating because I did not think anyone could replace him. He had been a fixture in town since practically before I could remember. When he was hired many felt he could not be the next Chief Obenheim. He ultimately proved many people wrong. I realized, in a short time, that we weren’t attempting to find someone to replace Chief Wilcox; we were in fact looking for the best person to assume the role as the next police chief of our town.

What I can tell you is that the selection committee reviewed almost 40 resumes. We interviewed more than nine candidates, including a number of local individuals. Ultimately, we were tasked in choosing the three best candidates for the job that would be recommended to the Select Board and subsequently to the town.

I honestly feel that we did what we were tasked to do. To this day, I personally feel we got the best candidate and frankly a darn good police chief.

Another issue people seem to be put off by is that our Police Department has increased the number of speeding violations issued since the new police chief took office. I say this is a good thing. I live on East Main Street, and I am sick and tired with the way people treat our street as an opportunity to see how fast their car can do 0-60 mph. Furthermore, with the arrival of the Lee Premium Outlets, a new Big Y, and a supremely more convenient convenience store to access in South Lee, traffic is up on our street ten fold. Something needed to be done. So we stop more speeders. This is not a bad thing, unless, perhaps, you are a local who is the one getting pulled over by the police. Would Norman Rockwell want to live in Stockbridge with all these people being pulled over? Frankly, if it meant he wasn’t going to get hit riding his bicycle in town by a crazy driver, I would say, yes, he would approve of the increased speeding fines issued.

I would also like to make a comment about some of the gripes I have heard that our current Select Board has not been transparent or has been dragging certain litigation issues on at the expense of the town. Having been on the School Committee now for more than four years, I have learned in a short time that it takes “two to tango.”

First, our Select Board is beholden to the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting law. This means that no public body can meet outside of a public forum and said forum must be posted to the public 48 hours in advance of a specified meeting time. Executive Session privileges can only take place within the context of a public meeting after a public meeting is opened. Executive Session only takes place when the topic of discussion may undermine the Select Board’s position with respect to negotiation, arbitration or litigation proceedings. Additionally, if the party opposing the Select Board requests an issue be conducted in private, especially a personnel issue, then the Select Board is obliged to recognize and respect this request.

Furthermore, negotiation, arbitration, and litigation issues seldom resolve over night. Both sides in this gambit are playing the laws of the land to the best of their abilities to advance their respective cause. Frankly, I cannot stand this bureaucratic process as it severely impacts our collective ability to address issues that have greater and better impact on the stakeholders at hand, but it is the way our society has evolved and it is the way that has been mandated by the law.

To say that our Select Board is working outside of the law or is not being transparent is either a lie or an accusation that is not backed up by facts.

Lastly, I want to address a comment I read about how there is this “machine” in town that prohibits people from speaking up or even participating in the annual Town Meeting. What a bunch of baloney. The annual town meeting has been in place since practically forever, if not forever. It is the one time, at least, where people can voice their opinion and be heard. No one is squelching that right. If you have something to say, say it. Better yet, back it up with facts. However, if you say something, you need to realize someone else has that equal right to refute your position. That’s why it is called “free speech.”

I encourage every registered voter in Stockbridge to partake in the democratic process during the annual Town Meeting on Monday, May 18th and the annual Town Election on Tuesday, May 19th. Also, if you have children, please feel free to bring them; they should see democracy in action.

I support Deb McMenamy because I feel she holds the interests of the town in mind far beyond what her opponent has been able to articulate.

Rich Bradway

Stockbridge, Mass.

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