MOULTONBOROUGH — The town is currently accepting letters of interest from residents who are interested in filling a vacancy on the selectboard, following the resignation of Joel Mudgett last week.
Mudgett, who had served as a selectman for a total of 12 years over two different stretches, resigned at the conclusion of a meeting on Thursday. On Monday, he explained that his decision to step down was driven by recent attacks on his character.
“This started because of the decision that the selectboard made reference the coronavirus and whether to have summer recreation activities run by the town,” Mudgett said. He said that he and other selectboard members voted to cancel the youth programs that the town recreation department usually runs during the summer out of fear that children or staff members would become infected with the virus at a town program, then bring the infection back home to their parents or grandparents.
The decision was made for public safety, Mudgett said, but he said he quickly became the target of pointed criticism, especially on the “Moultonboro Speaks” blog, run by Town Moderator Paul Punturieri. After the June 4 vote to suspend summer programs, and to furlough or reassign rec department employees, Punturieri wrote that the issue was handled unprofessionally by the board, which Mudgett was chairing. “Ham-handed is the nicest way I can describe how you managed the situation.”
In another post on the topic, Punturieri asked his readers to “bombard our selectboard with support for our Recreation Department and their programs and demand they revisit this ill-advised decision.” He ended the post with a list of email addresses for selectmen.
Mudgett said he was bombarded, and it wasn’t always with messages that could be interpreted as supportive. One letter, which was read into the record during a selectboard meeting, used the phrase, “The pompous, privileged and simple-minded way you rule.”
With the discourse turning from the matters at hand to the competency of his management, Mudgett decided he had had enough.
“I figured, as chairman at the time, that it would be better that I walk away and maybe we can get past some of this,” he said. “The main reason why I wanted to get done was I could not understand all the nasty emails people were writing. I do not have a personal agenda with the rec department… I do not believe I was a bully or anything else.”
For his part, Punturieri said that he was “sorry he resigned.”
“I have known Joel quite a while. I served on the selectboard with him, for a year, I think. Joe’s a good, honest, decent person,” Punturieri said.
The remainder of Mudgett’s term will expire in March of 2021. Residents who wish to be considered to fill the empty seat should send a letter to Walter Johnson, Town Administrator, PO Box 139, Moultonborough, NH 03254, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.