By William F. Zachmann for the Duxbury Clipper
The lead article headlined “Special Report: Turf Wars” in last week’s (April 18, 2018) issue of the Duxbury Clipper makes dismal reading for any concerned citizen, voter, and taxpayer of the Town of Duxbury. It is bad enough that we face staggering increases in our real estate taxes over the next few years from a $135 million plus spending spree on major capital projects in the midst of the worst U. S. economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930. It is even worse, however, that we must also certainly pay substantial legal fees to defend against lawsuits that could wind up requiring us to pay even more, potentially much more, should the Town of Duxbury lose them.
Unfortunately, given the facts as presented in that article, it is clear not only that the suit against Duxbury by Johnson Golf is not at all sure to be decided in the Town’s favor but also that Johnson’s contention that the final procurement document was intentionally changed to enable the rejection of Johnson Golf and the eventual award of the North Hill Golf Course management contract to the newly created, locally owned and operated, Calm Golf LLC is, to say the least, not entirely without merit. It certainly looks like a number of people in Town Government were involved in and supportive of an effort to come up with a final procurement document that would enable a previously determined outcome.
Whether that amounts to an illegal conspiracy, invalidates the procurement process that awarded to contract to Calm Golf LLC, and exposes the Town of Duxbury to costly liabilities owed to Johnson Golf remains to be determined by the court in the trial currently scheduled to begin on October 1, 2012. However, merely that Johnson Golf has sufficient ground to bring the matter to trial is sufficient basis to conclude that the handling of this matter by Town officials has left much to be desired.
Despite the obvious embarrassment of the factual inaccuracy of Town Counsel Robert Troy’s January 27, 2009 to Middlesex Superior Court Judge Herman Smith, incorrectly attributing the inclusion of the phrase “or comparable business enterprise” to a “consultant”, it would be at best a mistaken over-simplification to make Troy the scapegoat of the North Hill contract saga. The email trail leaves little room to doubt that the initiative to alter the procurement did not originate with him and that it was at least not opposed and perhaps facilitated by a number of people in Town Government who were at least aware of the process by having been included in the email distributions along the way.
At this point, the first priority for Duxbury is to defend against the Johnson Golf law suit, hopefully to prevail or, failing that, to minimize the costs in legal fees and potential awards against the Town at additional cost to taxpayers. That should not, however, stand in the way of a complete, thorough, independent inquiry, as soon as possible, into the handling of this matter by the Town to determine the facts and develop recommendations about how best to ensure that this unfortunate situation is not repeated.
Kudos to newly elected Selectman David Madigan for his pledge to: “make public all aspects of the case so long as it does not compromise the Town’s position in the lawsuit”. More, however, is needed. We need to know why there should be any aspects of the case that, were they to be made public, would or could potentially compromise the Town’s position! The Board of Selectmen should appoint, now, a temporary committee of impartial citizens with no prior involvement in the matter, with full powers of investigation, in executive session when necessary, to determine the facts and to recommend measures to prevent its recurrence.