(Editor’s Note: Wilmington Apple reached out to the Town Clerk’s Office via email on Wednesday and to both the Town Clerk’s Office and Town Manager’s Office on Friday morning, asking for a response by 1pm. Town Manager Hull provided a very detailed email response on Friday morning, prior to his meeting with Selectman McCoy on Friday at 11:30am. Wilmington Apple never heard back from the Town Clerk’s Office.)
WILMINGTON, MA — Below is a statement issued by Wilmington Selectman Mike McCoy this morning:
On Friday, October 27, 2017 at approximately 11:30 a.m., there was a meeting at the Wilmington Town Hall. The people present at the meeting were Town Manager Jeff Hull, Town Clerk Sharon George, group member Ed Coughlin and myself, Michael McCoy. At the very beginning of the meeting, Sharon George stated that she wanted to speak first. She sincerely apologized and took full responsibility for giving our group the wrong paperwork to hold a special town meeting. What she gave instead was the signature sheet for an annual town meeting. Because of her error, the 649 signatures the group collected were invalid. The verbiage I created for the actual article was correct.
The the hard work and many hours we all put in last Saturday and Sunday became a heartbreaking waste of time. You could tell by the crack in Ms. George’s voice and the welled up tears in her eyes that she was emotionally upset. I said to her “because of this screw up, we have to do it all over again. However, by you admitting your fault, I accept your sincere apology and we have no other choice but to start over and get the signatures again.” Ms. George thanked me and went on to state that she was making no excuse and that in all her years as the town clerk that this is the first time a citizen driven special town meeting has come across her desk. She simply gave me the paperwork for an annual town meeting when what we needed was paperwork for a special town meeting. She went on to say that she contacted the town clerk of Westford, MA. After her discussion with the Westford clerk, Ms. George was provided with the document signature page of a special town meeting. Our Wilmington Town clerk simply changed the heading from Town of Westford to the Town of Wilmington.
At the October 27, 2017 meeting, the Wilmington Town Manager Jeff Hull said no more than 20 words during the entire meeting but yet prior to the meeting, he did an interview with Robert Hayes of the Apple and after the meeting he did an interview with the Lowell Sun reporter Kori Tuitt basically stating that the petitioner (without stating my name, Michael McCoy) made errors, the petition had flaws and the petitioner did many things wrong. That is a flat out lie. What’s even more interesting is that Lowell Sun reporter Kori Tuitt called the town clerk’s office to speak to Sharon George in order to conduct an interview directly with her in regards to the petition article in question. The response of the clerk’s office was that Ms. George was not available and that she would return the call. Interestingly, Lowell Sun reporter Kori Tuitt received a call back not from Sharon George but none other than Town Manager Jeff Hull.
As a side note relative to the petition in question, I sat down with Sharon George in the conference room at the town hall. I showed her the verbiage of the article itself. She said it looked good and that it was to form. I then requested for her to give me 40 copies of the town form to call for the special town meeting. She told me that on the town form of the signature page to write on each page the words “see attached” then staple the verbiage of my warrant article to each of the 40 pages and we were good to go. Who am I to question the town clerk? She is the clerk of the works. I figured she knows more than I do in these matters so I followed her instructions to the T. I’ll go even further to say that on October 20 at around noontime as I was getting signatures outside of Market Basket, I saw the town accountant and the town assessor walk by me and say hello. I assume they were going in to get lunch. More importantly, about fifteen minutes later, who should walk by me? None other than the town clerk herself, Sharon George. I said with a smile “Madam clerk, am I doing everything right? Is this paperwork in order?” She looked at the paperwork and said “It looks good to me”.
Folks, I’ve been in this political game a long time. What this tells me is that the town manager is nothing more than a sneaky little weasel trying to do damage control. He is absolutely, without a doubt, in the tank doing everything he can do derail a citizen driven special town meeting. All he had to say to the press was nothing and to let the town clerk speak for herself. If pressed to give a statement, he should have been professional enough to simply say that we had a meeting and the town clerk admitted her error, took responsibility, the petitioner accepted that apology and now we’re moving forward. Obviously Jeff Hull, rather than the clerk herself is conducting all the interviews. There’s no question that I’ve been out collecting signatures in front of Market Basket two weekends in a row. Many citizens during the second petition stated to me that the town clerk is either incompetent or she was in on it. I told every single person, including Ed Souza who is on the Wilmington Board of Registrars, that she is neither. I truly believe that Sharon George simply made a mistake. She is a nice woman and an honest person. End of story.
For the town manager to flat out lie by making those derogatory statements, it leads me to wonder what else he has covered up in Wilmington and for whom. I believe if I were a different “Mike”, this situation would have been a non issue from the start. This tells me Jeff Hull’s credibility is zero.
Michael V. McCoy
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