MOULTONBOROUGH — Two members of the Planning Board — Josh Bartkett and Judy Ryerson — facing a public hearing before the Board of Selectmen, who will determine if there is sufficient cause to remove them from office for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance, will soon be informed of the specific charges pending against them as well as the date and format of the hearing.
Town Administrator Carter Terenzini said yesterday that a letter specifying the circumstances that prompted the selectmen to initiate the removal proceedings and setting the ground rules for the public hearing will be mailed to Bartlett and Ryerson on Friday. He added that once the two have been informed the letter will be released to the public.
Meanwhile, Bartlett and Ryerson, together with Paul Punturieri, a third member of the Planning Board, have asked the chairman, Tom Howard, to convene a special meeting of the board, a request the rules of the board entitle them to make. Howard has seven days to reply. Punturieri said yesterday that the three believe the board should discuss the matter.
Terenzini said that last month the selectmen voted during a non-public session to instruct the town counsel, Peter Minkow, and the town administrator to arrange a public hearing, which state law requires be held before removing appointed or elected members of either the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). He emphasized that the purpose of the hearing is for the selectmen to hear the case against the officials together with their rebuttal of the charges then decide if there is cause to remove them.
At the same time, Terenzini and Minkow were told to meet with Bartlett and Ryerson and offer them the opportunity to resign rather than undergo a public hearing. Both have flatly refused to resign and Bartlett, speaking to the selectmen when they met last week, said "I'm eager to have a public hearing."
Bartlett and Ryerson have claimed that apart from a reference to the case of Bear's Nest Trail, LLC, they have not be offered an explanation of the proceedings brought against them. When Bartlett pressed the point with the selectmen last week, Terenzini countered that he was informed, but conceded that the letter would provide "greater specificity." Likewise, Terenzini indicated that communications from "outside people," who he declined to identify, contributed to the decision of the Selectboard to proceed against the two.
Yesterday Terenzini confirmed that the proceedings arose from the conduct of Bartlett and Ryerson when, on July 10, the Planning Board approved Bear's Nest Trail LLC's construction of an observation tower on the east slope of Red Hill. The firm built the tower without obtaining the requisite permits and, after not seeking permission and sought forgiveness, by asking the ZBA and Planning Board to approve the project after the fact.
The ZBA granted a variance and referred the case to the Planning Board for a conditional use permit (CUP), which required meeting 11 criteria. The minutes record that Peter Jensen, the acting chairman, "polled" the seven members of the board on the 11 criteria. Two of the 11 failed when the board split evenly — three-to-three — with Bartlett abstaining and Ryerson voting no. However, neither believed it was the best interest of the town to require the structure be dismantled. Ryerson changed her "no" to "yes," breaking the stalemate in the "poll," and Bartlett offered a motion to grant the CUP, which carried five-to-two.