In a voice sometimes choked with emotion, School Committee member Dick Bachelder spoke Monday night about the election to recall him from office, the “unsubstantiated” charges against him and his wish for changes in the charter to ensure future recalls are handled more equitably.
This is the first time that Bachelder has spoken in public on the situation surrounding the recall petition, which is resulting in an April 7 special election. He made his statement at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
The petition cites eight violations of the School Committee Code of Ethics. It was mounted by the group Coaches and Kids Matter, following the termination last November of football and basketball coach Randy Small. Small was dismissed as basketball coach by interim Superintendent Mark McQuillan, after consultation with athletic director Andy Wood. The School Committee, including Bachelder, was not involved in the process. Only the superintendent, according to school policy, can make that decision.
With regard to the claims, Bachelder said, “I have done nothing wrong. My wife and children,” and here, Bachelder paused to gather himself, “know I have done nothing wrong. My friends, and those I associate with who know me well, trust that I have done nothing wrong.
“I have earned that trust. To put any public servant in this position, to put any public servant through this process, without requiring accusers to provide facts which substantiate the charges of unethical behavior is simply unnecessary.”
Bachelder said he understands that the town doesn’t have much appetite to change the Home Rule Charter, but the next time a charter commission is convened he requested that the town change the language with regard to recall petitions.
He said he researched the issue nationwide and found 34 states do allow for recall of elected officials, and a number of them require the allegations in a recall petition be substantiated by fact. He quoted from a legal opinion by the attorney general of Florida, which has such a requirement. The opinion states that the subject as well as the electorate “should be advised of the facts which form the basis of the recall; beliefs, ideas and conclusions are insufficient.”
He asked that the charter be amended to require an affidavit in support of a recall election that “includes both an enumeration of violations committed and facts to substantiate those charges.”
He called the recall “a bad story. I am deeply saddened by this entire process. It has pitted people against people. For what ends?” He said the petition process takes time from the workers in the town clerk’s office; time from the School Committee; and money from taxpayers to print ballots and pay for the election.
“From a personal perspective, the recall election initiative is an unfounded attack on my integrity and ethical behavior. At the same time, it paints the School Committee in a bad light by inference,” he said. “Neither is warranted or deserved.”
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