By William F. Zachmann, for the Duxbury Clipper
Both Board of Selectman Chairman Shawn Dahlen and Selectman Chris Donato could have done better than they did in last week’s dustup between the two of them at the end the BOS meeting on Monday, January 9, 2011. Neither set an ideal example for how best to conduct the business of the Duxbury Board of Selectmen: Donato by the unnecessarily confrontational manner in which he tried to raise some issues and Dahlen by hiding behind the Open Meeting Law and executive sessions to prevent public discussion of matters that he does not want the public to know about. The result was not just a lamentable lack of civility in the conduct of the meeting, but an equally if not even more lamentable lack of transparency in Duxbury’s Town Government.
Regardless of whether Donato’s view that something is wrong with the handling of the North Hill Golf Course contract, litigation related to it, and apparently (and possibly unnecessarily) large sums of taxpayer’s money paid to Attorney Robert Troy is justified or not, both Donato’s strident manner and Dahlen’s stonewalling of open, public discussion of the issues are wrong.
Donato should express his concerns in a more civil and more effective manner. Dahlen should recognize that Duxbury’s citizens and taxpayers have a right to know how and why their money is spent and stop hiding behind legal technicalities to keep the facts from the eyes of the public.
If Donato is simply dead wrong; if everything has been handled properly, if Attorney Troy has worked hard, effectively, and rightfully earned every penny of Duxbury taxpayer’s money paid to him over the years, then full and complete disclosure of the facts will show that. Assuming that is so, Dahlen should welcome Donato’s requests that the facts be laid before the public, not try to limit them to a privileged circle of Town Hall insiders.
On the other hand, if there is substance to Donato’s complaints, his blunderbuss approach undermines his effectiveness by turning off people who just do not like his confrontational style. If Donato is right, and something is wrong, Duxbury’s citizens certainly have a right to know. But just rocking the boat is not the ideal way to get to one’s destination.
Dahlen’s stonewalling is not sufficient reason to assume that Donato’s concerns are valid. But it surely is a continuation of a long standing practice of Duxbury’s political in crowd to avoid public disclosure and discussion of many matters that should, in fact, be publicly known. Duxbury’s citizens and taxpayers have a right to full and complete transparency of how their Town is governed and free and complete access to the details of how (and why) their money is spent. They should be able to “follow the money” to see who benefits from it –and to make sure that Duxbury always does.
Over the past two decades, before Dahlen was elected to the Board of Selectmen, Duxbury’s Town Government was generally moving in the direction of greater transparency. Dahlen’s apparent inclination to reverse that trend should worry Duxbury’s citizens as much Donato’s personal style does.