Cold War: Why can’t you Just Tell us What the Issue is?

September 20, 2019


by Len Lathrop

Information from the non-public meeting where issues led to the 91A (Right To Know) request that the selectmen have filed with the school board was released to the HLNThursday morning after being presented to Town Administrator Steve Malizia and Selectmen Chairman David Morin.  This request requests all of the minutes, documents, emails and correspondence of the school board regarding the Palmer CTE project.

A signed copy of the original notes and a transcribed version was sent to the newspaper. Below are the notes made by Executive Assistant Donna Graham during the non-public session, non-public meeting of Aug. 27, 2019, under the heading of ‘Discussion – CTE Building – Code of Ethics’:

  • McGrath – composed letter and Attorney Lefevre made changes;
  • Morin – Superintendent Russell – school attorney said not to talk with BOS; Ethan Beals is being overseen
  • Roy – Beals is co-chair with Burnell; chose not to have a clerk of the works; Beals Sr. barred from making decisions and Ethan Beals does not have authority to make decisions; and
  • McGrath – asked has school adopted Code of Ethics? Asked Patti Barry if they fell under the town- we have no authority over the school.

Asked BOS if “we should pursue and send letter”:

  • Coutu – not averse to sending the letter;
  • Martin – agreed with McGrath and should send letter to school; and
  • McGrath – sending letter to Donna Graham to send out to BOS for an revisions to the letter.

It seems, based on the notes from this document and various conversations, that there are two issues Selectman McGrath wants to know about but has not been made public. First, it appears to be a concern that Ethan Beals, who is a civil engineer for Hayner Swanson, Inc., is also the son of Alvirne Principal Steve Beals.  Hayner Swanson was hired to be the site engineer on the project before Ethan Beals worked for the company.

A second concern of McGrath’s pertains to Principal Steve Beals who is referred to in the notes as Beals Sr.  When reading between the lines, it appears she wants to impose the town’s code of ethics on him.  Based on the notes, she asked Town Clerk/Tax Collector Patti Barry if school employees fell under the code of ethics.  McGrath reported that Barry stated the town had no authority over the school.

Are tensions continuing to escalate between the town and school?  Is a Cold War on its way?  According to the notes, Chairman Morin has spoken with School Superintendent Russell.  The school attorney is involved and now has blocked communication between the boards.

Selectmen Roy must have mentioned that Beals Sr. is the co-chair of the building committee and the notes are slightly confusing at that point.  Remember that the Palmer project is overseen by a building committee that votes on everything.

When asked if the BOS should pursue and send the letter requesting all of the information from the school board about the CTE project, Martin, Coutu and McGrath all voted for it.  All three were sent e-mails this week asking for comments and reasons for this action. Selectman Martin was asked to “comment and confirm how this action started and what the issues against the Beals family are.”  In his reply was “at this time I will not make any statement as to what you are asking, because all of our conversation was done in non-public.”

McGrath and Coutu did not reply.

Well, next week will provide more information on how much this request will cost taxpayers. The selectmen meet on Tuesday the 24th. The school board had a special Wednesday meeting on the 18th and should be in regular session on the 23rd, but, as of this writing, no agenda posted has been posted.