Select Board Wants Two Golf Committee Members Out

by William F. Galvin
Select Board member Jeffrey Handler  (center) explains his reasoning for postponing golf committee meetings in Monday's session. Select board members Michael MacAskill and board chair Julie Kavanagh  listen intently. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO Select Board member Jeffrey Handler (center) explains his reasoning for postponing golf committee meetings in Monday's session. Select board members Michael MacAskill and board chair Julie Kavanagh listen intently. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH – The select board is calling for the removal of two members of the golf committee and voted Monday to postpone all meetings of the group if those members do not resign before their terms expire June 30.

The two golf committee members were not named publicly Monday, but committee members Steven Bilotta’s and Carol Fuller’s terms expire June 30. Attempts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.

Select board members made it clear Monday night they are not happy with the performance of the two members of the golf committee, which advised the board on policy at the town-owned Cranberry Valley Golf Course. There is concern for the way “five-star employees” in the golf department are treated in the work environment, said Select Board member Jeffrey Handler.

Handler, who serves as liaison to the committee, said the employees face an atmosphere of public criticism and condemnation and are targeted by a few golf committee members who will not follow proper committee policy and procedure. The employees face false allegations, are publicly being called liars and have to deal with significant micromanagement in the day-to-day operation of the municipal golf course, Handler said.

“This may sound harsh, and it is; however, it is the truth,” Handler said of the treatment of golf department employees. “We cannot allow our town employees to have to deal with this situation one more day, or ever again.”

The actions of the select board came on the same night the board accepted the resignation of golf committee member Michelle Ryan, who has served on the committee for less than a year. Ryan was clearly not a committee member Handler was referring to when calling for the resignations of two members.

In a lengthy letter of resignation, Ryan expressed her frustration and the waste of time working on projects the select board never even considered. Ryan wrote in her resignation that she was aware of conflicts between the board and the golf committee in the past, but she was told by the select board interview committee they were moving away from those problems.

“In my opinion, the select board has made it clear that they do not value the role and advice of the advisory golf committee,” Ryan wrote. “By preventing us from meeting for months, while wasting our time with busy work, and now choosing to not have us meet until the new year, the select board has blocked the committee from delivering against its purpose which is stated in the town’s charter and has, in essence, disbanded the committee.”

Ryan said she volunteered so that she could apply her experience, knowledge and leadership to an area that she thought was valuable to the town.

“I no longer believe that to be the case,” she wrote. “I have lost faith in our liaison and the select board based on how we as a committee, and as an individual, have been treated.”

Golf committee member John Connolly tendered his resignation in mid-October after a contentious meeting between the committee and the select board related to alleged interference in the day-to-day operation of the municipal course.

On Monday night, Handler said he was aware Ryan was considering resigning from the committee and said he spoke with Golf Committee Chair Martha Duffy, asking her to speak to Ryan on his behalf and encourage Ryan to wait until after Monday’s meeting to make a decision.

“I felt and still feel Michelle is an incredible asset to our town, our volunteer pool and I’m sorry to see her go,” Handler said. “I understand somewhat why she is sending in this resignation, and I’d like to thank Michelle Ryan for the period of time she was on the golf committee. I would like her to consider reapplying for the golf committee when things settle down.”

To say the past six months he has served as liaison “have been difficult” would be an understatement, Handler said. He emphasized that there have been issues with the golf committee over the past three years when select board member Donald Howell served as the committee liaison. He said both he and Howell shared the same frustration.

At some point, Handler said, the golf committee seems to have been elevated to a higher level than town employees, and that is unacceptable and should not continue.

“So where I see the malfunction is right here with this board — I am including myself — for not supporting our employees and allowing this toxic and unproductive environment to continue for three years,” he said. “By our very actions, or inactions, we, the board, clearly have not been supporting our employees, and for that I am truly sorry. I am thankful that the employees hung in there, ran the golf course and did their jobs, despite the challenges they had to deal with. The actions of true professionals in my book.”

Handler said there are people who feel the select board is attacking the golf committee and treating committee volunteers with no respect for no reason. Nothing could be farther from the truth, he said, citing three years of effort to resolve issues.

“I would argue that some members of the golf committee did this themselves and now they are being held accountable,” said Handler.

He proposed three options for the board to consider. One would request the two committee members in question to resign so the committee can be reconstituted immediately after the resignations; second, send the two committee members to the select board interview committee for review; and lastly wait until the terms of the two committee members in question expire in June to appoint new members.

The board approved Handler’s motion to postpone all golf committee meetings until June 30.