Between the unauthorized use of $5,000 and accusations of unfair treatment, the Mansfield Conservation Commission found themselves playing defense during a contentious meeting with selectmen lasting over 60 minutes.
One of the main issues at was the use of $5,000 from a revolver accout to hire a legal consultant for a case involving four lots on Gilbert Street. The selectmen did not authorize the money for the consultant and the bill that followed caught the board off guard.
"It’s really not fair to approach us with a bill that we knew nothing about and expect us to pay,” Selectmen Doug Annino said.
The conservation commission defended their actions saying that they were unaware of the policy to ask for authorization and they have done the same in the past with no issue.
“We weren't hiding anything. We didn’t do anything secret. We tried to make this as public as we thought we had to,” conservation commission Vice-Chairman Colin Cauldwell said.
The commission also said that the consultant was hired due to a lack of staff.
Annino however, was not buying the idea that the commission was unaware of the policy.
“I really find it hard to believe that every other board in Mansfield knows about this policy but you guys,” Annino said.
The board was also uncomfortable with the idea of a board hiring their own legal council when they had access to the town’s legal council. According to Town Manager Bill Ross, a board has rarely, if ever been denied use of the town’s legal resources.
The commission was also accused of general unfriendliness with selectmen citing incidents where they have heard complains that residents were afraid to go in front of the board, sometimes walking out of meetings shaken.
Cauldwell denied the claim that the residents coming in front of his board leave shaken and asked the selectmen to go though videos of past meetings to show when the issues are.
Selectmen Chair Olivier Kozlowski suggested a workshop between town management and the conservation committee that would be open to the public to help improve services but the committee responded that such efforts in the past were poorly attended with no turnouts at some of the sessions.
With the board looking to bring businesses to the Cabot Business Park in the spring, there is an invested interest for both parties to be able to work together to make sure that new businesses coming to Mansfield are able to do so while following the proper rules and regulations.
“We are going to be looking at thinks specially in the industrial park in the spring, you really need to be part of that but I think we need to make sure that we have our ducks in a row in terms of regulations,” Kozlowski said. “If we’re going to put our best foot forward to attract new business to the industrial park, we need to know you can be responsible.”