As announced on The HopTake last Saturday, a group of frustrated residents have begun to collect signatures in an effort to recall Select Board members Amy Ritterbusch, Shahidul Mannan, and Mary Jo Lafreniere.
The Hopkinton Town Charter outlines a procedure for citizens to oust elected officials prior to the end of their term, but it applies only to officials whose term of office ends longer than than 6 months away. Neither Irfan Nasrullah or Chair Muriel Kramer can be recalled, as both are serving 3 year terms that expire May 20, 2024. Neither have publicly stated whether they intend to seek reelection.
By way of example, the recall petition for Ms. Ritterbusch reads in part:
“We, the undersigned eligible voters of the Town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, in accordance with Section 5-2, “Recall Provision for Selected Officeholders,” of the Town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts Home Rule Charter (“Home Rule Charter”) that has been effective since July 1, 2017, submit this Recall Statement in Furtherance of a Recall Petition (“Recall Statement”) and hereby seek to recall Select Board Member Amy Ritterbusch on the following grounds: (1) an appearance of incompetence in performing the responsible administration of her job as a Select Board Member; (2) an appearance of unethical superintendence over Town matters; (3) an appearance of biased subjectivity in her governance; and/or (4) stewardship that appears antithetical to the conspicuous wishes of her constituency.“
The recall is organized by resident Jim Scanlon, who along with others, has repeatedly chastised the Select Board during Public Forum.
“The Brennan fiasco has clearly demonstrated to citizens of Hopkinton that the Select Board is unwilling to listen to their constituents and incapable of managing this town, which by itself is enough to have them recalled. What many of us have come to learn over the last several weeks is that there are multiple examples of mismanagement and we the citizens deserve better. If the Select Board thinks the only person getting fired is Tim Brennan then they are in for a rude awakening,” said Scanlon, in a written statement.
Backed by the newly formed “Grassroots Advocacy Group for the Fair Treatment of Sgt. Tim Brennan“, Scanlon and others will be stationed outside of CVS and Price Chopper on Saturday, February 10 from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM to collect signatures. Scanlon also invited interested residents to contact him via email with questions.
The Hopkinton Town Charter sets a high bar for recalling any elected official. Section 5-2(b) outlines the criteria which stipulates that signatures of at least 10% of voters must be collected, provided that at least 200 voters are from each of the 5 precincts of town. The total number of valid signatures to be collected is 1,312, which constitutes 10% of the electorate.
Once submitted, the signatures will be certified by the Board of Registrars of Voters. Then signatures must be collected from 20% of the voters (2,624) from any precinct. Voters are allowed to sign both petitions. Once the signatures are certified, and assuming all requirements are met, Town Clerk Connor Degan will notify Ritterbusch, Mannan, and Lafreniere in writing of the recall effort. For members that do not resign within 5 days, the Select Board shall order an election held within 90 days. Whether a member is recalled by voters or resigns during the recall process, they cannot be appointed to any town office for a period of 2 years.
“When the recall provision was created by the Charter Review Committee, it was intended to be an arduous process so it wasn’t taken lightly,” said Degan. “It’s a difficult thing to get done.”
Former Selectmen speak out about Brennan
HopNews contacted three former Select Board members for a comment on Sgt. Brennan’s termination.
“In today’s anti-cop culture, Tim is a shining star. He’s what everyone wants to see in a police officer. Kind, compassionate, caring and above all, fair. It’s disheartening to see the board vote the way they did. For the board to vote to terminate Tim for a policy violation is no way to promote cohesion and a welcoming town to work in. Sadly, this board will go down as a vilified one. All the good that has been done will not be remembered. This is their “JFK moment”. This will set the precedent moving forward for all policy violations. It’s awful and not the Hopkinton that we all loved,” wrote former Chair Brendan Tedstone.
“Tim Brennan has served the Town of Hopkinton with distinction for many years,” wrote Brian Herr. “His positive demeanor and willingness to help the kids (and parents) in town is second to none. Like many of us, Tim has made some mistakes along the way. He acknowledged his mistakes with this very unfortunate situation. He has made it clear he won’t repeat those mistakes. If we terminate everyone that makes a mistake, who will be left?“
Wrote John Couhtino, a former Select Board member who currently serves as Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals: “What just happened to Tim Brennan is deplorable. It breaks my heart to see how weak town leadership has become. It should be more than being on TV for 2 hours every two weeks bantering about national and world issues. A strong Select Board member must dedicate dozens of hours a week to deeply study the facts inside and outside of town hall. One must attend every town event to get the pulse of the residents and take a stand on difficult topics without abstaining.“
HopNews also spoke with current Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere, who offered no comment.
Confidence in this Select Board is low
Today, HopNews published the results of a reader poll conducted on the Select Board. In total, 668 people responded to the survey, and it was completed by 664. The majority of respondents identified as men and most respondents were between 50-59 years old. All but 53 of the responses were completed before the Select Board terminated Sgt. Tim Brennan in a 4-1 vote.
The poll found that overall confidence in the board’s leadership is low, with a full 89% of respondents indicating that they were “Not confident” in the board’s ability to lead the town effectively. The board also scored low in terms of trust and transparency. An overwhelming number of respondents felt the board could not be trusted to “do the right thing” for the town, nor did they feel they were “transparent” with residents.