Mike Meyers, a 69-year-old resident of Andover, found a way to use town meeting to voice his displeasure with the way his community is being run.
Meyers gathered enough signatures to call a special town meeting Tuesday night where he put forward six articles to rein in the power of town officials, particularly Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. Two of the articles passed, despite warnings from town officials that they were illegal, and four went down to defeat.
Still, Meyers felt he successfully used New England’s quirky form of direct democracy to make a statement. He was upset that Flanagan in 2021 fired Bill Fahey, the town’s youth services director, for what Flanagan called improper conduct with a young woman who worked for him. Fahey has denied any impropriety, and he was never charged with anything.
Meyers said the allegations against Fahey were rubbish. He says Flanagan has also forced out others who work for the town and created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation at town hall. Meyers said the six articles, which covered a wide range of issues, were intended to send a message to Flanagan and other town leaders that they can’t run Andover like a fiefdom.
“They don’t want any public input into what they’re doing,” he said.
Hundreds of people gathered at Andover High School to vote on the articles. Town officials, sitting at a raised dais, had the upper hand as they were allowed more time to make their case than the articles’ proponents. But Meyers also had a few tricks up his sleeve.
One of the articles directed the town to give $800 stipends to educational support professionals, including instructional assistants, cafeteria workers, and custodians. Meyers said the article was a good idea on its own, but it had the added benefit of enlisting a large chunk of town residents to his side.
Town officials said the $800 stipends were illegal because the collective bargaining process was the only avenue for providing compensation to town employees.
Several town residents who supported the stipends said they didn’t know if it was illegal or not, but they urged a yes vote anyway to send a message to town officials to listen to what residents want.
The measure passed 250-231.
Meyers said he wanted the stipend article to be considered at the end of the night, but town officials moved it to the first item of business. Meyers said many of the town’s workers left after the article passed, which made passage of the other articles more difficult.
An article calling for the town to hire a firm to anonymously survey town workers on the performance of the town manager and school superintendent went down to defeat 280-127.
A third article prohibiting the use of non-disclosure agreements promoted a spirited debate. Town resident Mary Lyman, a proponent of the measure, said there had been eight non-disclosure agreements but no explanation of what they were for.
“We want transparency. We want accountability. We want to know how our tax dollars are spent,” she said,
Flanagan said the town offered to release the agreements in seven of the eight cases, but the former workers who signed them wanted them to be kept secret. He said none of the non-disclosure agreements involved financial settlements.
Town meeting passed the prohibition on non-disclosure agreements by a voice vote.
The other three measures, all of which were defeated, called for using $1 million of the town’s free cash on additional mental health services, releasing details of all no-bid contracts or agreements greater than $10,000, and scrapping the town’s plan for spending $10.9 million in federal COVID relief funds and starting the process over with more public input.
Flanagan said after the meeting that he appreciated the nature of the debate over the articles. “It’s clear the community is passionate about a number of different things. The burden is on us to continue to inform and engage residents in the areas where they feel they haven’t been engaged. There’s a lot we can learn from that,” he said. “For the people that did vote against the articles, I appreciate the faith they have in what we’re doing. And those that passed, we’ll review and look at next steps.”
Meyers was disappointed with the outcome, but he is not giving up. He says he may gather enough signatures to hold another special town meeting in the fall.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Baker officials include in a supplemental budget proposal $100 million for offshore wind development in Salem, Somerset, and New Bedford. (Salem News)
In an excerpt from the book he co-authored with his former chief of staff Steve Kadish, which will be released next week, Gov. Charlie Baker said putting aside partisan differences is key to getting things done in government. (Boston Globe)
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says she has only seen a redacted version of the internal affairs file on former police union president Patrick Rose, who pleaded guilty last month to child molestation charges, but her office is not answering questions about why she hasn’t seen the full file or whether it will be publicly released. (Boston Globe)
Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara is floating an old idea – switching to use of civilians as “flaggers” at construction sites – with a new rationale: To fight “systemic racism” by providing employment to city residents who have been “most affected by incarceration and policing.” (Boston Globe)
Raynham town meeting says no to a plastic bag ban proposal. (The Enterprise)
Federal health officials are sounding the alarm over a national resurgence of COVID cases. (New York Times)
The only currently known US case of monkeypox is found in a Massachusetts man. (Associated Press)
After a lengthy nurses strike at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, nurses are at odds with management again, this time over the adoption of 12-hour shifts. (WBUR)
Massachusetts’ congressional delegation presses baby formula manufacturer Abbott on a timeline for reopening its factory, and expresses particular concerns over low-income WIC recipients, since Massachusetts had a contract requiring WIC users buy an Abbott-manufactured brand of formula. (MassLive)
Outgoing state Auditor Suzanne Bump endorsed Chris Dempsey, a fellow alum of the Patrick administration, in the Democratic primary race to succeed her. (Boston Globe)
A Trump-backed candidate who has denied the results of the 2020 presidential race and said Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled legislature has the power to decide which electors are sent to Washington won the state’s Republican nomination for governor. (Washington Post)
More BPS woes: In three instances since late April, Boston students have been assaulted by classmates using school-issued Chromebooks as weapons, rather than learning tools. (Boston Globe)
A group called Safety in our Schools led by Rev. David Searles of East Boston says state receivership of the Boston system may be the answer. (Dorchester Reporter)
Delana Burrowes mounts an interactive art project exploring racism in Great Barrington. (Berkshire Eagle)
Sacha Baron Cohen drops a lawsuit he filed against a Massachusetts cannabis dispensary for using his image in a billboard. (Associated Press)
The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley is preparing to reopen after being closed for two years. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
The MBTA rolls out new fines for fare violators. (Salem News)
Plans to put solar panels on the DCU Center in Worcester stall because it would require expensive upgrades to the electric grid, and National Grid says it’s up to the customer to pay for that. (Telegram & Gazette)
Boston activist Monica Cannon-Grant is asking for a speedy trial in the federal case charging her with multiple fraud and conspiracy counts, with her lawyer saying she “has been immeasurably prejudiced and punished by the indictment alone.” (Boston Herald)