Select Board Kicks Hall Off Committees

by William F. Galvin
Harwich Old Timers Facebook  page administrator Sandra Hall. FILE PHOTO Harwich Old Timers Facebook page administrator Sandra Hall. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH – The longstanding rift between select board members and Sandra Hall erupted publicly Monday, with the board voting not to reappoint Hall to two town committees.

Hall called the board’s actions “petty” and “inappropriate,” while select board members accused her of bullying and lying.

The dispute centers around the Harwich Old Timers Facebook page, which Hall administers. She often posts critical comments and observations about town government and officials. A longtime contributor to the community, she served as a selectman for 11 years and was also instrumental in developing the town’s charter.

But Monday, select board member Michael MacAskill moved that Hall not be reappointed to the two groups on which she served, the bylaw/charter review committee and the Brooks Academy Museum Commission.

“The word bully has often been used against me and there is no greater bully in this town than somebody who sits behind a keyboard and throws shots from a distance,” MacAskill said. “We do not have the right under law to defend ourselves against the bullying that goes on [Hall’s] platform.”

“To be called a bully by a bully is interesting,” said Hall.

“It was fascinating, completely in character and not unexpected,” she said of the board’s action. “I’m one of six or seven people trashed by this board because we didn’t agree with them. I thought it was so inappropriate for the board to sit there and trash people around the table like that, people who wish to express their opinions. The way volunteers are treated, it’s even more obvious we need some rethinking.”

Hall has been the administrator of Harwich Old Timers Facebook page for nearly a decade and keeps a close eye on the actions of the select board, town administrator, and governmental functions in general. She is not afraid to speak her mind about things that concern her.

Along with being a selectman, Hall was the chair of the charter commission that created Harwich’s home-rule charter in 1987. Hall has served for several years on the bylaw/charter review committee and the Brooks Academy Museum commission.

MacAskill has made it clear he has not been pleased with the information disseminated on the Harwich Old Timers page. The platform is used to attack the select board and the town administrator, he said. It discourages volunteers from serving on boards and committees and allows anonymous comments and attacks from people using fake names, he added.

“If you don’t agree with her, she goes after you,” said MacAskill. “Under the guise of social media you can do what you want. We can’t go on there and defend ourselves, there are flat-out lies written by her that we can’t go on and correct.”

“I’d like to know exactly what it is that I’ve lied to people about,” said Hall. “I have made mistakes.”

MacAskill also took issue with Hall’s initiative to establish a charter commission to conduct a thorough review of the town charter, adding that she was on the bylaw/charter review committee, and a commission would remove the committee from charter review.

Having served as chair of the bylaw/charter review committee, select board member Donald Howell said he is not sure there is anyone more conversant than Hall on the topic. He added that he disagreed that there is a conflict of interest caused by Hall pursuing a charter commission.

Hall said the effort to collect signatures for a petition seeking to form an elected charter commission continues, and about 1,500 signatures have been gathered so far. It will take 1,716 signatures of registered voters to establish a ballot question calling for the election of a commission.

Howell also questioned why Hall was also being removed from the Brooks Academy Museum commission. The commission did nothing that was approved by the select board, “unless you are unhappy with the entire commission,” he said.

“Removal from the Brooks Academy Museum commission was just petty,” said Hall.

Select Board Chair Julie Kavanagh said she could not see why one board would be OK but the other would not be. Kavanagh took issue with differing opinions being taken “to the court of social media. I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Kavanagh said.

“It’s up to the select board to appoint and reappoint,” said Kavanagh, “and there has been a lot of negativity out there.”

Select Board member Peter Piekarski said he did not think bullying should be tolerated by anybody, but added he did not have enough information and would like to talk with Hall.

At one point Howell put forward a motion to reappoint Hall to the Brooks Academy Museum commission, but it was not seconded.