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Adrienne McCarthy listened to the entire dog and phoney show the selectmen put on last night and she called it for what it was. She cautioned that taxpayers may not wish to be as strident as their town officials, who are now convinced they are paupers, when just a few weeks ago suspended town manager Mike Coughlin and Mary Gallagher, director of finance, told selectmen things were tight but it looked like they could get through the year without any deficit.
Selectmen are now convinced they have to do a level-funded budget for FY13 and all of a sudden acting town manager Mike Milanoski has discovered the town is facing a structural $350,000 deficit this year…and he is foraging through town hall looking for unspent funds. This in spite of $650,000 in new growth. But then – didn’t the town just assume $500,000 in water dept in order to pump up water’s books for their RFP? Oh, that probably has nothing to do with it. Wait a second and DeCaprio will tell us! Probably any second now.
AND. OH MY GOD. The Town has a 32M in unfunded pensions, health insurance. Yep. It’s still there. And I can tell you this. As hard as Capital Budget works, and even if Budget Planning attends 1000 meetings, they are not going to put a dent in that little honey until the state legislature works its magic. Perhaps it’s Coughlin’s fault? Milanoski blamed the out-of-sight legal budget on him last night. But I think the selectmen had a lot to do with that with all the designer counsels they hired. Coughlin kept pushing them to use town counsel.
Well, now water commissioners want a 10-year Water RFP, and the inspector general has supposedly blessed it and Peter DeCaprio, who out of the goodness of his heart, not because he has to, is not going to vote to decide the winner of the 10-year contract, which is not the 20-year RFP Coughlin sent to the Inspector General. It is a different one. No one has yet seen this RFP – selectmen haven’t anyway. But they cheered DeCaprio anyway.
Monday, March 26 the citizens of Cohasset will be invited to the high school auditorium to meet DeCaprio’s tar baby. It will start at 7PM…a two-hour presentation. Perhaps it will be on TV. He says he is pleased with it. He projects we will get $1.5 million up front and it will generate $500,000 in cash every year after 10 years. And that’s all we know and all the selectmen, who love it to death, know.
In related news – selectmen voted to allow the suspended town manager back in town hall to pay his taxes and such. Initially, they had banished him from all public buildings. That was a bit harsh, I thought. Acting TM Milanoski threatened to call the police on him Monday when he tried to return his computer. Milanoski found Coughlin to be so dangerous that he had to walk him to the parking lot and did not return to town hall until he saw Coughlin drive away. Such drama. You know, you sail by this sleepy looking little town on the Atlantic Ocean and think, what a perfectly pleasant place to live. And then you land.
The point is this. There was absolutely nothing wrong about our now suspended town manager Mike Coughlin. He walked into a financial pit and worked like a dog to put things together. He found us a terrific director of finance. He made all the DOR deadlines. He tried to build a team. But he made the mistake of worrying out loud about the 20-year concession agreement the water department was looking for. And, alas, he stuck his nose into Cat Dam and ruffled many important feathers.
Did you know there is only one Adrienne MacCarthy in the entire United States?
I wish she would run for selectmen this year. The last day to take out papers in March 22.
So, I have been observing the disintegration of my former hometown’s politics from the outside, albeit still as a taxpayer who’s ticked off at the circus. Sad, deplorable, and since I know many of the players, shocking. If anything, perhaps all of this will finally burst the bubble of Cohasset’s sense of entitlement and exclusiveness – that it is so much different and better than towns around it with their seedy stories in the Ledger. It is not, and whatever side one is on, it is embarassing. Especially the public name-calling.
This being Massachusetts, we unfortunately are given to seeing bad when questionable and possibly wrongful decisions are being made. I hope to be proven wrong, but 27 years in the law and around politics in this state make one a little cycnical. Where there is smoke, there is usually a back room from which it is being blown. Let us not think that local politics cannot be as bad as the cesspool downtown.
What the Cohasset public needs is full openness. (How naive of me!) While official investigations may or may not be underway, and may or may not reveal things, in a perfect world, or through a public records request by anyone willing to foot the likely bill that will be charged as an attempted roadblock, here are some items and questions, provided as if I was doing interrogatories and a document request before a trial, that the public might benefit from seeing and having answered on the 3 issues swirling around – Cat Dam, the Water Commission and what Mike Coughlin has done or not done to be fired (oops not yet – that decision is supposed to made openly and after a fair hearing). The experience from the police disciplinary hearings of 7 years ago suggests we won’t get the full story. By the way, any public record request should include not only e-mails made on one’s Town of Cohasset address, but on private addresses. Don’t know if the AG has ruled on this yet, but an e-mail about public business should be a public record no matter the account used. And believe me, private accounts are used and compliance with the open meeting law seems to be a challenge to most of the players in this saga. Maybe Cohasset will make new law on all this.
On the Cat Dam matter, one would like to see:
1. All written documents and e-mail communication:
a. between the Board of Selectmen (including individual members), the Town Manager, and/or Town Counsel and any agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from the date of the decision of the Conservation Commission to date.
b. amongst and between any combination of members of the Board of Selectmen, the Town Manager, the Advisory Committee, the Capital Budget Committee, the recently constituted town governance committee, the Conservation Commission, employees of Town Counsel and/or other third parties (including but not limited to known members of the group known as the E-20 or that group’s attorneys and agents), from the date the Conservation Commission hearing began to date, including anything related to how and why assoc. Town Counsel was instructed to advance the E-20 position as the Town’s position at a recent meeting with DEP (as others have reported did occur).
c. amongst and between any Selectmen and any state government official or legislator or member of the Massachusetts Democratic Party staff , from the date of the filing Conservation Commission decision to date. (Why? Because this IS Massachusetts, and some of our leaders have ties downtown – ask yourself why the BOS didn’t fear a state investigation).
2. Records from the Office of Campaign and Finance regarding donations made to the Selectmen candidates in the last year’s town elections (and the upcoming one).
SEE NEXT POST
We are told that tomorrow evening the BOS has an agenda item to grant its governance committee Special Municipal Employee (SME) status. Wonder what prompted this. They weren’t worried about any of this stuff before. Are they starting to go legal?
Under the state ethics laws, those designated special municipal employees have less stringent prohibitions under the ethics laws. The governance committee was formed initially to investigate the selectmen’s firing of three conservation commission members; but we don’t think it ever got around to doing that. Had it done so, at least one member would have a conflict – namely committee member George Chamillard of Cat Dam Environmental-20 fame.
If governance is looking into changing the form of government and the responsibilities of the Town Manager – Chairman and now acting town manager Mike Milanoski could not participate as he could potentially have a future financial interest in that decision. SMEs can still participate with a full disclosure to their appointing authority – the BOS.
Is it important for you to know this?
One never, ever knows.
An interesting E-mail exchange about DeCaprio and his hedge fund, January 2012.
Subject: FW: Aquarion Water
Since your name and that of the BOS will be on the concession agreement–seems to be when two Massachusetts towns are buying back their water department back from Aquarion we should proceed cautiously with selling our water company to them… In a sense– this deal is probably “hotwired” to Aquarion… so we need to do due diligence and not simply discount this as Peter is.
From: Peter DeCaprio [mailto:email@example.com]Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:41 PMTo: Mike Coughlin
Subject: RE: Aquarion Water
so what? is that relevant to us? Is your point that Hingham’s
administrator asks for stupid things or spends money unwisely?
From: Mike Coughlin [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:28 PM
To: Peter DeCaprio
Just as a heads up-the Hingham Town Administrator called to inform us that tonight the Hingham Board of Selectmen will be asking a special town meeting for legal dollars and consultant monies to look into the possibility of buying Aquarion.
Also-A judge cleared the way for the Town of Oxford to buy out Aquarion in that municipality.
From: Mike Coughlin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, January 28, 2012 11:13 AM
Subject: RE: Water
Thanks Ted, I am truly sorry I am making your job more frustrating but this will help.
From: Ted Carr – Cohasset Board of Selectman [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 5:22 PM
To: Mike Caughlin (sic)
Subject: Re: Water
I would like to see the law opinion. I agree you are correct this is not the way to do these things.
I support you and the teams opinion on this.
Please send me everything you have on this.
to reach Ted Carr for Town of Cohasset Business via phone please call 617-283-7075
From: “Mike Coughlin” <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2012 15:54:10 -0500
Sorry to bother you but in the past three weeks—Mark Brennan has been “uninvited to meetings”. I have not been invited to meetings. Peter retains his personal lawyer as the new “counsel” to the water company. His attorney then rights a legal opinion stating there is no joint management.
Peter wants a concession agreement at all costs. Lou Ross and Paul Derenis have told me that Peter has actionable conflict interests given the investment portfolio of his hedge fund. (tinytownunleashed put this in bold)
Aquarion is a likely bidder and other towns are dumping the company. How is the town going to get control of this?
Ted Carr Blocks Ethics Investigation
From: “Mike Coughlin” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FW: Town Manager Act Corrected
Date: February 13, 2012 8:34:13 AM EST
To: “‘Tanna Kasperowicz’” <email@example.com>
Ethics opinion was blocked
From: Mike Coughlin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2012 3:24 PM
Subject: FW: Town Manager Act Corrected
E-mail exchange with Town Attorney indicating that the Chair of the BOS blocked the legal opinion I had requested concerning ethics
From: Mike Coughlin [mailto:email@example.com]
Subject: RE: Town Manager Act Corrected
I understand Ted’s instructions but I have a independent role—albeit at my own risk—to perform as Town Manager and Chief Procurement Officer. In my other town’s – even in instances where my position and that of the Chairman of the Boards was at odds—my access to the town attorney was never blocked.
I feel that something is definitely wrong here and if I can not call upon the Town Attorney for advice—my only option is to contact the state ethics commission directly. I am prepared to do this if necessary but It also does not bode well for the future relationship between the Town Attorney and the Town Manager.
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2012 5:00 PM
Subject: Re: Town Manager Act Corrected
Please call Lou Ross on that subject matter, we received an email from Ted Carr to not issue anything on this. I thought you and Ted had talked, please coordinate between you and Ted what it is we are supposed to do here on that subject. Lou can fill you in further. I can send you a copy of the Carr instructions:.
Cohasset Town Manager Mike Coughlin plans to hold a press conference in the very near future to talk with townspeople about his goals and objectives with regard to his employment with the town. I think you will be very surprised at what he has to say. As soon as we know the time and place of the press conference, you will know. Coughlin is utilizing our blog to get his information to taxpayers because it is available for him to use. As it is available for Cohasset Water Chair Peter DeCaprio to use.
In related news, it would be good for you to note that although Mr. Hedge Fund Peter DeCaprio has been a water commissioner for two years, there is little and no news posted on the cohassetwater.org site from his reign. It’s all from the Glen Pratt daze. Maybe it’s time for DeCaprio to put some of his rhetoric on his own site so we dummies can see it better. Of course every time he talks he says something different. Hard to know what is actually happening here. Perhaps this is why he is flapping his wings.
By his own admission, DeCaprio has held largely un-posted, investor-type meetings with local boards and committees about the Water RFP; no news of Cohasset Water’s RFP appears on his website and yet this is an issue which has made the National news and which has resulted in this blog receiving over 1500 visits a day every day. DeCaprio himself corresponds with tinytownunleased almost daily, giving us our only news of town hall which has been locked down. Employees have a gag order. They are no longer permitted to speak to TinytownUnleashed. Did our new Acting Town Manager, my neighbor, do this?
Are we now under Milanoski law?
We continue to learn what little we know from Hedge DeCaprio, who recently told us: “…we have convinced the new finance department that they are in fact on the hook for the $500k that the town owed us previously, and they have also agreed that their original overhead allocations to us were incorrect. More cash for the water company. I know you will regard that as a net negative somehow, but everyone else that doesn’t view our operations through the prism of Bear Hill is likely to see it the same way we do.”
Alas. It would appear “the new finance” department is also being run by DeCaprio, over the advice of the DOR. Does DeCaprio have photos of the selectmen with sheep? What is happening here? Do we even need any selectmen when we have the awesome DeCaprio?
In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sunnydale, California is portrayed as have being built on the Gates of Hell. I now think of Cohasset that way. A lawless, cowboy town populated by selectmen and water commissioner vampires – feeding upon all of us…because they can.
DeCaprio is a music man kind of fellow. He’s the selling agent and he is selling like he never sold before. He is on every blog of every newspaper, in all the newsprint he can make it into. And do you know what? People are beginning to understand what he is about. And he is about Peter DeCaprio, hedge fund. He hopes to make Cohasset Water part of his portfolio, and when I see American Water open and still selling on Crow Point Partners site, I wonder if Peter’s selling Cohasset Water through American.
Hedge fund investors come and go in the blink of an eye. You never know who will show up.
DeCaprio is fighting for a lot of money here. But I’m not sure it’s for your benefit.
I think Tom Wolf is right. So do a lot of people.
This will require you to come to Annual Town Meeting in May and vote NO WAY IN HELL on the concession contract article.
We will ask 7 people to stand for a ballot vote on this question at annual town meeting.
Wednesday, Feb. 29, 7PM
St. Stephen’s Church, Cohasset Common
Event is free to public, contributions encouraged
Optional: the presentation will be preceded by an optional locavore potluck meal (6:30PM)
sponsored by Sustainable Cohasset. If you’d like to participate, bring a meal to share.
RSVP: Co-hosts are Chartis Tebbetts (781-383-1662) and Kathy Earle (339-788-1316).
Who should control our water: corporations or people? This may the hottest topic around
- both here on the South Shore and across the globe.
Campaign staff from Corpoerate Accountability International( formerly INFACT) will outline their Campaign Challenging Corporate Control of Water as well as discuss the critical importance of challenging corporate influence and abuse at this moment in history.
Learn about Corporate Accountability’s newest campaign, Public Water Works, and learn how you can get involved in this essential step towards securing equal access to clean water for all. You can also expect an overview of Corporate Accountability’s successful Think Outside the Bottle campaign which has reversed the epidemic of bottled water use that swept the nation int he last decade. There will be plenty of opportunity for questions and dialogue. If you’re concerned about the role of corporations in our society, you won’t want to miss this evening of conversation. And if you believe water is a fundamental human right, you simply can’t miss it.
To Elizabeth Kouloheras
Regional DEP Director, Massachusetts
from Mike Cloughlin
Cohasset Town Manager
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Dear Ms. Kouloheras,
As the Town Manager for the Town of Cohasset, I am writing about the Cat Dam project which is currently under consideration by your department.
Shortly, after I was appointed but before I took office on August 1st, the Board of Selectmen took what I believed was illegal action concerning the reappointments/appointments to the Conservation Commission. These actions by a 3 to 2 vote of the Board of Selectman with Chairman Edwin Carr and Dianne Kennedy in opposition dramatically changed the direction of the town’s position.
Since then, I have been extremely concerned that officials from the town of Cohasset have been trying to influence the outcome of the process through various calls and back channel appeals to your agency as well as the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
I am also concerned about the ethical integrity of the Town’s legal position. As you know, the attorney for the group that call itself “E-20” has had a heavy influence on the strategy by the town. To that end, the attorney for that group, drafted a request that the project was exempt from further review. The Town Attorney did not believe in that approach but in the end was instructed to merely print the letter on the town’s stationery and submit it.
I regret to inform you that there is a now coordinated and orchestrated effort by officials to attempt to influence your agency and other agency’s involved to render a decision favorable to the “E-20” group. As you may be aware, state environmental officials has agreed to meet with Cohasset officials in an effort to discuss the way forward. I am believe that this effort – led by Attorney Rick Huckstrom from Deutche Williams—the town’s attorney is being compromised. I believe that external influences will prejudice the outcome and a resolution of the issue. There are also ethical considerations concerning those officials trying to influence the process.
I regret bringing these matters to your attention but a cloud has been cast over this issue. Decisions should be made according to applicable environmental laws and the standards of conduct that public officials—including those in Cohasset are expected to follow. If you or your agency need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
Michael J. Coughlin
In their commentary, Ralph Dormitizer and Sam Wakeman seem to predict my fate before the hearing on March 13th. Maybe they know something as insiders or are just guessing but the people of Cohasset have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue at my hearing.
Both Ralph and Sam are long time public servants in this community. They argue that I have not been collaborative and that the old ways of doing thingsin Cohasset need to be preserved. This would be fair enough if Cohasset finances were in good shape but they are not. Cohasset has suffered a financial implosion. The complete system broke down. The road back is a long one and I am glad to say that we have turned a corner.
I did not make this financial mess– I walked into it. Nevertheless, if the old system they talk about is worth preserving where were these committees during the many years it took for this problem to manifest itself into epic proporations. The Advisory Committee, Capital Budget and Budget Planning Groups are all important but a blind man should have been able to spot the warning signs. To make it clearer– our independent auditor warned for years about the growing storm.
Collaboration is also a two way street. Where was the offer of colloboration with me. Almost from day one, officials in this community– knowing full well of the gravity of our financial problems inisted on protecting their turf and in the same process that ultimately was the cause of the financial implosion. In six months, we have taken the bull by the horns–exerting strong leadership to deal with the financial crisis.
With respect to Water, Dormitizer and Wakeman imply that I did not attempt to seek collaboration with the Water Commissioners. I ask– why has joint management worked with the Sewer Commission and not with Water? The answer is easy because the Water Commissioners have resisted it ultimately hiding behind a flawed legal position which tries to paint them as an entity all to itself and not answerable to anyone. To collboration and reform, I am on record as stating the Advisory Board needs to be strengthened into a true finance committee– fact conveniently left out of their commentary.
Finally, Dormitizer and Wakeman try to imply that I have lost political support. To the many who showed up last week and the many others that have expressed their support in the past days– their observations are another cocktail party statistic– a fact taken out of context. Yes– I may not have the support of certain town officials– some of those who should ultimately be asked why the town and they not act to avert thee financial crisis.
In a democracy, its the people that matter and throughout history it has been shown that any small group who thinks that can substitute their opinions for the will of the people will ultimately fail. I hope this will be the case on March 13th, I may not win but its important to the future of this community that the people be reminded that we are a nations of laws not men.
Cohasset Water’s RFP concession agreement continues to be on hold at the inspector general’s office – where Town Counsel Paul DeRensis is defending the Town’s position against Cohasset Water’s designer counsel. DeRensis says that the town has joint control of the water company. Designer counsel says naught.
In spite of the fact that Cohasset Water’s RFP is on hold with the inspector general, Peter DeCaprio, chairman of the water commission is out hawking the Cohasset Water RFP at luncheon engagements (if the Old Goats count) saying the RFP will be issued on Feb. 28th. Is this even legal? Isn’t the RFP supposed to be under wraps until such time as it is issued?
Has DeCaprio presented the Water RFP to selectmen? Have they reviewed it? Not at any public session we’re aware of. But then most things don’t happen in public sessions these days.
Town Manager Mike Coughlin has been suspended. The recently appointed acting town manager, Michael Milanoski, has in the past year been appointed as an associate member of the conservation commission and chair of the governance committee. Milanoski could not be appointed town manager because he would need to be out of town government for one year in order for the board to do so. But he can, apparently, be appointed interim/acting town manager for just about forever. Who knew?
If you Google Michael Milanoski you will find a lot of rotten stuff that raises some questions. We have no idea if any of it is true or not. In any case, we will not be publishing it here and you will not read about any of that old news on our blog – so don’t submit it.
There is something incredibly wrong with all of this, of course. In the end, it may not be the Inspector General or anyone else who saves us. We may have to save ourselves – at Annual Town Meeting.
When we created the strong town manager act we envisioned hiring someone strong, like our now suspended Town Manager, Mike Coughlin.
We didn’t get that in the first two town managers. The first one started off well and then he had problems with keeping his pants on. The second one became over-whelmed with the powers that be. He became un-strong.
Town Manager Mike Coughlin walked into a 1.3 Million water dept., incomplete records in the sewer department, and worked like a beaver to figure things out. He also questioned the selectmen’s ethics regarding various matters, not just the Cohasset Water RFP consignment contract.
Unfortunately, the questions surrounding the Water RFP is not the only issue undermining the ethical position of the Town of Cohasset. Even before Coughlin began employment with the town on August 1st, he became very concerned about the legal and ethical actions of certain officials on Cat Dam.
Coughlin expressed his concerns to the regional director of the DEP in Lakeville. Executive session minutes- will show two things– the close but highly questionable interelationship between the town’s legal position and that of the E-20 group. Secondly, a concerted effort to contact state officials some at the highest levels to influence the outcome of the regulatory review process. This is a quasi judicial proceeding– any contact by town officials to influence the outcome is one thin ice.
There is also the issue of the Governance Committee.
The Governance Committee was created in the aftermath of the controversy concerning the conservation appointments - which may be illegal. It never once looked into the conservation issues. Instead of studying the conservation issues– it began questioning the Town Manager Act. What ever happened to the inquiry on the Open Meeting Law violations?
The Chair of Governance (Mike Milanoski) - was appointed to the conservation commission. Executive session minutes of January 31st will reveal he is now part of a back channel effort to unduly influence the DEP. He was almost handpicked by certain selectmen to meet with the DEP — despite the fact he was not part of the con com when Cat Dam was considered. Now he has been appointed the Interim TM – if he can partipate in an ethically questionable effort to influence the DEP - how can he be entrusted to deal with the serious ethical issues surrounding the Water RFP?
In the very near future four town officials will meet with DEP -Town Attorney and the Conservation Agent– now– the vice chair (Selectman Paul Carlson)- one of the three who voted illegally to not reappoint the original conservation commission is part of this effort.
Instead of contacting the Con Com to choose their representative– the BOS hand picked Jack Creighton.
Why did the Selectmen pull back on their decesion to vet Peter DeCarpio, Cohasset Water Department chair, by the ethics comission? Hard to know.
Selectmen couold have requested enforcement from state ethics. We (this newspaper) is under the strong impression that Town Counsel had serious reservations about DeCaprios’s relationship to Macquarrie and American Water. Actualy, it’s not an impression. We have Town Consel’s E-mail stating the same.
Has anyone told the I.G. office that Aquarion is the holder of the expiring water contract and is also involved in the RFP?
Aquarion owns the American Water Co (running the Cohasset Plant). They purchased Accord Pond and American Water Co. How do they get to help formulate the RFP for the water they are purchasing? Is Selectman Chairman Ted Carr involved, financially, with anything to do with this? May be.
How nice of Ted Carr to abstain on the vote to appoint Milanoski (4-0) as interim town manager. “We are neighbors, “he said. But Carr told Town Counsel to STOP the ethcs investigation of Peter DeCarprio who is financially related to AQUARION, AMERICAN WATERWORKS AND MACQUAIRE BANK…
Carr has no problem with that realtionship.
Just the little neighborhood ones.