Town Manager Paul Cohen’s recent appearance on Chelmsford cable TV, with Tom Christiano acting as host, is telling. The fabric of his fanciful storytelling is starting to come apart of its own weight. See for yourself: http://www.viddler.com/explore/intownreport/videos/17/
Cohen ducks the questions of why he allowed the town’s Building Inspector to issue an unlawful building permit, why he advised the BOS not to bring the preservation restriction into court for interpretation and enforcement, and most of all, why he lied to the BOS in August of 2009 in a prepared written statement. That statement, in “closed” executive session, says that "The town was never approached by the owner” to see if the town was interested in purchasing the land behind Center Fire Station.
Yet in this interview he claims he immediately briefed Fire Study Committee Chairman Pat Maloney in February of 2009 of the Bank’s interest in selling the property. If that’s the case, why was Mr. Maloney so clueless about the availability of the land in his presentation in late March of 2009 to the selectmen? In the interview Cohen poo-poos the notion that the land was ever the Village Green (it was) or Center Park (so designated by the selectmen who sold it to the bank in 1978, and so indicated in the deed itself which designates it a “public park”).
Most interesting is Cohen’s reaction when the host, who accepts all of Cohen’s obviously false statements as truthful, simply asks, “Since it was so inexpensive, $100,000 or less, why didn’t the town just move to buy the land?” Cohen gets so angry and defensive, he “forgets” to answer the question. Well, he sort of answers it by claiming that the operational budget was tight, but he knows that’s irrelevant. Money to buy the land would not come from the operational budget, it would come from the land acquisition account, which had over $400,000 in it – more than enough to buy the 2+ acres behind the fire station which the bank would have been glad to let go for $100,000 or less. (The Eliopoulos’ wound up paying about $50,000 for it, because construction on it is restricted, right?)
In the interview, Cohen again claims that he briefed the selectmen. Most of the selectmen at the time (except Pat Wojtas) haven’t indicated any recollection of such. And when Cohen stated to the selectmen the following August that he was never approached by the bank, none of the selectmen said, “Wait a minute! You briefed us about it in early March at that executive session, remember?”
We are never going to get answers without a formal inquiry. Watch the video and remember Cohen’s statement to the selectmen in August that he was “never approached by the owner.” Caution: your head may explode.
Roland Van Liew