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Milton selectmen candidates split over details of former Town Administrator termination in debate

Posted by Dave Eisenstadter  March 27, 2013 03:33 PM

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Milton candidates for selectman sparred over water fees, making more meetings open rather than closed sessions, and litigation expenses at a candidate’s night at the Milton Public Access TV Station on Tuesday.

One-term incumbent Robert C. Sweeney faced off against challenger and former Warrant Committee chairwoman Kathleen M. Conlon, fielding questions posed by local journalists.

In his opening statement, Sweeney emphasized his town roots, speaking about his children being educated in the Milton Public Schools and his involvement with numerous town organizations and committees over the past 40 years, including the School Committee, Town Meeting, and Milton Youth Hockey.

Conlon said she first ran for Milton Town Meeting in 1985 at the age of 19. She said she’d like to make the selectmen run more efficiently and give more duties to the town administrator. As an attorney, she said she would bring needed knowledge of the law to the board.

Conlon struck the first blow against Sweeney for his “no” vote on the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority water rate increase in Milton.

“I don’t think that’s a fiscally responsible position to take, hoping the other two selectmen will vote ‘yes,’” Conlon said.

The appropriate approach would have been getting the Department of Public Works involved and building consensus among the board members, she said.

Sweeney said his vote was in response to the water bills in Milton reaching about $2,000 for a family of four.

“I’m sending a shot over the bow of the MWRA,” he said.

Later in the discussion, Conlon took issue over Sweeney saying he would like to reduce the town’s legal bills. She said the board’s decision to terminate former town administrator Kevin Mearn would result in unnecessary litigation.

Mearn has said previously he is preparing a report about the events that led up to his termination, but has not said more.

Sweeney, who voted along with selectman Denis Keohane for Mearn’s termination during the summer, said he had put forward an 11-point motion drafted by town counsel to protect the town from litigation at the time of the termination.

Conlon returned to the issue of Mearn’s termination later during the debate to say selectmen had violated open meeting law by deciding to terminate Mearn in executive session.

Sweeney characterized himself as a big proponent of transparency in government, and said he would work to hold fewer sessions in private if re-elected.

For some of their disagreements, the two candidates did agree on a number of issues. Both supported Annemarie Fagan as Town Administrator, allowing for an extension of the medicinal marijuana law before dispensaries might be placed in Milton, and making a town housing plan to protect the town against future 40B development proposals.

In Conlon’s closing remarks, she said the positions on current issues were important, but that there would be issues that would be brought up over the coming three years that no one would be able to anticipate.

“I will be impartial, deliberate, a good listener, and the decisions I make will be transparent and informed by the facts and the law,” she said.

Sweeney’s closing remarks emphasized his opposition to the Milton Mews 40B development, which he said would be detrimental to Fowl Meadow, as well as the 33L runway departures at Logan Airport set to be rerouted over Milton.

“I am a needed voice to move Milton into a bright future,” Sweeney said.

For more information about the two candidates, visit Conlon’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Votekatie4selectman/451959431540886?ref=stream and Sweeney’s website at sweeney4milton.com.

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