Thanks to all of you who submitted your own signatures despite concerns about retribution and especially those who collected signatures in your neighborhood. Because of the extremely tight time frame it was necessary to deploy professional signature gatherers and they did a great job despite ongoing harassment and coordinated petition suppression activities on the part of town officials spearheaded by Jon Kurland. However, fully one-third of the signatures were collected and submitted directly by concerned residents over a period of just 10 days.
Chelmsford residents are correct to be concerned! When top officials like the Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen don’t care about integrity in government, it is bound to cascade down to every level.
Last Friday it was also revealed that Chelmsford Town Building Inspector Scott Hammond has been dumping fill in town-owned protected wetlands behind his house in Billerica for years, partly so that he can park trailers there. And he installed a swimming pool that encroaches on town-owned land as well. It’s a good example of why accountability for malfeasance is important. When officials know they are not accountable, they start doing what they feel like regardless of the duties of public service and regardless of the law. Here’s information about Mr. Hammond’s recent illegal dumping in Billerica wetlands:
Last summer I warned the selectmen that Town Manager Paul Cohen needed to be explicitly instructed to withhold the town construction permit desired by the “Epsilon LLC” (Eliopoulos) consortium until “9 North Road” lawsuits were settled. Selectman Matt Hanson stated that “it goes without saying” that no permit should be issued, therefore no action was taken. The next week, Paul Cohen’s direct report, Building Inspector Scott Hammond, issued the unlawful town building permit ignoring the preservation restriction on 9 North Road and removing a major impediment to the Eliopoulos consortium’s unlawful construction activities.
The selectmen didn’t raise a finger last summer to either stop Hammond or rectify his malfeasance afterward. And they remain unconcerned about that unlawful permit to this very day.
When you have a Board of Selectmen who won’t move to uphold the law or investigate ethics violations by cronies or the Town Manager whom they are supposed to oversee; when you have a Town Manager who ignores the duties of his office and flouts the law when it suits him; then the attitude you get toward conservation in general and preservation of wetlands and wildlife habitat is one of dismissive arrogance. You wind up with an appointed chairman of the Chelmsford Conservation Commission in the person of David MacLaughlan who clearly doesn’t care to follow the town’s conservation bylaw requirements, as with the callous granting of a permit by the Conservation Commission last year to the Epsilon group, ignoring the bylaw’s explicit requirement that construction not harm wildlife habitat or recreational opportunities.
It is no surprise given the corruption and malfeasance that surrounds him that Chelmsford Building Inspector Scott Hammond feels he is above the law. The importance of good government and honest officials has never been clearer than it is in Chelmsford today. That is why the selectmen should be recalled and we must move forward with newly elected officials who value integrity and accountability.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew