The Charlotte zoning board has decided to keep member Ronda Moore.
At its July 14 meeting, the board met in executive session to decide the fate of Moore, who had been accused of conflict of interest concerning the permit application for the Charlotte Family Health Center.
Before the executive session to consider the issue, Moore asked to have the proceedings in public.
But town attorney David Rugh said the executive session was required because issues would be discussed that involved attorney-client privilege.
The call to remove Moore first surfaced June 28 when zoning chair Lane Morrison asked the Charlotte selectboard to remove her because of alleged conflict of interest violations.
“I think she’s violated the trust that the selectboard has put in her to represent the community on the zoning board — to be fair and open,” Morrison said.
She was one of four members added to the zoning board in late April and early May after previous members resigned in the wake of long-running conflict of interest allegations. All the new members were asked and affirmed that they would recuse themselves if a conflict of interest arose.
Moore, who lives the proposed Charlotte Family Health Center, has been a vocal opponent of the project’s location. She became part of a group collecting signatures on a petition opposing the health facility’s construction plans on the site and sent emails urging people to oppose the project, Morrison said.
The zoning board and the planning commission are still considering the application for the new family health center at 251 Ferry Road.
In response to Morrison’s request to remove Moore, the selectboard scheduled a special meeting to give Moore an opportunity to be heard. At that meeting, the selectboard passed the ethical hot potato back to the zoning board.
At last week’s zoning board hearing, besides attorney-client privileged communication, Rugh cited an evaluation or an appointment of a public officer as another reason the conversation needed to be in a closed session.
After her request was denied, Moore said, “For future boards it would be prudent to discuss an alleged charge with a new member first rather than throwing the member under the bus and worrying about its consequences for the member, town and board later.”
She also questioned the impartiality of the executive session because the town’s attorney was giving aid to Morrison, the person who accused her of violating conflict of interest principles.
Moore asked that Morrison recuse himself from her hearing, but he declined.
After the executive session, town planner Larry Lewack read a statement saying the zoning board would take no further action against Moore over the matter.
With the meeting back in public, former zoning board member Stuart Bennett, for the second time in three nights, criticized several town leaders.
At a selectboard meeting two nights earlier, Bennett faulted selectboard chair Matt Krasnow for his comments about Moore in June after Morrison requested her removal from the zoning board.
Bennett said Krasnow’s statements at the June 28 selectboard meeting prejudiced the conflict-of-interest controversy against Moore.
“For you, as a leader of the town, to publicly accuse a citizen of the town and a constituent with breach of trust and conflict of interest with no notice to her, no opportunity to her to reply is a serious mistake,” Bennett said. “That bell’s been rung. The smoke can’t be put back into the box.”
At the zoning board meeting, Bennett also criticized Morrison for his comments at the June 28 selectboard meeting and asked why he hadn’t recused himself from that night’s zoning board executive session.
Morrison said he didn’t recuse himself because he was the person making the charges.
Morrison’s comments to the selectboard demonstrated he had prejudged the issue, Bennett said. “I’m just amazed that doesn’t matter.”
Morrison replied, “What can I say? You’re right. I can’t disagree with you.”
To this, Bennett said he just wanted to clarify the issues because he loved working on the zoning board.
“It was a lot of fun. Lane was great to work with,” Bennett said.