On February 5, 2018 at the Wilmington Board of Selectmen meeting, the town manager Jeff Hull read into the record the memorandum dated February 2, 2018 which states 2018 Annual Town Meeting Warrant articles by Petition. The town manager, Jeffrey Hull started to read the eight warrant articles and as he read the first four, I recognized that they were all in legal form listing the petitioners name Adam J. Silva, Julianne Hooper, Michael J. Newhouse and Michael J. Newhouse again. All four petition articles are in legal form. All four started off stating Annual Town Meeting. Go get some popcorn folks, this is going to get interesting.
The next four articles are all illegal. I’ll explain in a second. As the town manager read the articles, the petitioners names are as follows: Sandra LaLiberte, Lyndsey Riley, Jacqueline Welch, and Jacqueline Welch again. (Jacqueline Welch is Michael Welch’s wife, as in Michael Welch the developer). All four of those articles started off by stating “Petition Article”, then the verbiage, however they missed out on some very important words on the top of each of the pages: Annual Town Meeting.
That’s right–NONE OF THEM stated Annual Town Meeting. Many of you well remember the fiasco I and the group Concerned Citizens of Wilmington went through just a couple of months ago this past December when I petitioned for a special town meeting where the Town Clerk, Sharon George, gave me the paperwork for my article and the header of each signature page were the words Annual Town Meeting. The group and I went out and collected 649 signatures whereas we only needed 200. When I returned the pages to the clerk’s office figuring I was all set, because the clerk herself gave me the paperwork. Guess what? Just a few hours after turning in the papers, I got a phone call from Jeff Hull, the town manager, telling me that he had talked to the town counsel, John Foskett and stated to me that my article was illegal because I was lacking ONE word: It should have said SPECIAL Town Meeting, not Annual Town Meeting. So town counsel John Foskett deemed it illegal. This was not my fault. So what did we do? We did it again and collected even more signatures, 668 to be exact, because ONE WORD was missing. We know the history of that town meeting–we won.
So there is no difference here. In all of those four articles, it does not indicate what the people were signing. So town counsel has to apply the same rule of law as he did to me. They are illegal. Plain and simple. There should be no different opinion from my article deemed illegal to these four present articles.
Here is the best part; when I saw the articles as written on February 5, 2018 as the town manager Jeff Hull was reading them, I kept my big mouth shut knowing that the deadline to submit warrant articles by petitioners was February 2, 2018. However, at the next Wilmington Board of Selectmen meeting of February 26, 2018, the town manager Jeff Hull read the same exact articles again. Once again, I kept my big mouth shut and let the town manager do his thing and said nothing. No one caught the mistake. The Wilmington Board of Selectmen could, if they wanted to, accept those petition articles if they chose to after the February 2, 2018 deadline. So that was the last bite of the apple on February 26, 2018.
On Wednesday February 28, 2018, I spoke with the town manager Jeff Hull and confirmed with him my findings and he agreed that the time had, indeed, expired for petition articles to be submitted. Period. I told the manager that the four articles were all illegal, especially the one located on Andover Street–you guessed it–the Scirappa Farm article submitted by Jacqueline Welch. If passed at the town meeting, it would produce over 700 condos off Andover Street in Wilmington. I told the manager that as selectmen, I was instructing him as town manager to investigate this matter and give it to the town counsel. I told the town manager that I think nobody knows more than I do in regards to the omission of one word on a petition article. In this case, there were no words at all to state on any of the signature pages to indicate what the people were actually signing. The old saying-what’s good for the goose is good for the gander or in this case, what’s good for the retired pizza guy (me) should be good for the developer (Michael Welch) and the others. There should be no way that town counsel John Foskett can let this slide. The town counsel has no choice, like he did in my article, to deem these illegal. So what does that mean? All four of those articles must do it again, like myself and the Concerned Citizens of Wilmington and they have two options: Number one, wait till next year’s annual town meeting OR 2. They must do what I did; get the correct verbiage and go back out there and collect 200 signatures for a special town meeting.
On a side note, I don’t know how this got by the town relative to Scirappa’s Farms. I was always under the impression that this was considered agricultural land and the Town of Wilmington should have the first right of refusal to buy the property. I remember back when then town manager, Michael Caira and the board of selectmen, which included myself, was in executive session to discuss this very topic and to the credit of the former town manager Michael Caira, he stated that he put the town into the positive position to buy the property when it became available. One more thing–those same four articles put together that are all illegal, it looks like the same font and format was used in all four articles, on all the signature pages, and they all head off with the words “Petition Article”. Hmmm….very suspicious. I’m just one humble selectman calling it the way it is.
Michael V. McCoy
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