SANDOWN – Channel 17 station manager Chris Donnellan took issue with comments made by selectman chair Jim Devine in a recent disagreement over the committee that investigated Sandown’s withdrawal from the Timberlane Regional School District, saying Devine was abusing his role as chair.
Following Donnellan’s reading of a prepared statement at the selectmen’s Monday, Nov. 2 meeting, Devine apologized for his comments, saying he had been out of line.
Donnellan explained that after a recent meeting he discussed the withdrawal plan with two of its champions, selectman Cyndi Buco and Cathy Gorman, and while that discussion didn’t leave a good taste in his mouth after he felt his opinion was called stupid by Gorman, it was Devine’s comments that shocked him.
The town voted to investigate withdrawal from Timberlane last March and since then the issue has divided many in town, even after the committee tasked with studying the matter deemed withdrawal neither suitable nor feasible. Some Sandown residents who investigated the matter in an eventually disbanded committee favored withdrawal.
Donnellan said that as the conversation in question continued, Devine stepped in to say that some comments made by Donnellan during the public hearing on the majority committee’s report were “rude.” There was discussion about whether his comments were indeed rude, explained Donnellan, and according to Donnellan, Devine then said, “Well, it was rude, and you shouldn’t say such things because you work for us (meaning the board of selectmen).”
Though the station manager said he was a taxpayer and had every right to speak his mind, Devine emphasized that he was an employee of the town.
“I was so shocked and unsettled that I could only walk away. This makes me feel very uncomfortable,” said Donnellan. “This is not how someone should feel for expressing an opinion on an important issue in the town.”
Donnellan also said Devine had called him a traitor in passing after that hearing, but at the time he didn’t understand the comment.
While Gorman, said Donnellan, has apologized for any insinuation that his opinion was stupid, he had concerns that his position in town could be in jeopardy or made difficult because of a disagreement with the chair.
“It is not right for the chairman of the board, who has power over the approval of cable board/channel 17 decisions of spending, hiring and firing, to use his position to keep others from expressing opinions. And to do so after the fact in an intimidating and threatening manner is even more disturbing,” said Donnellan.
Devine said he had been wrong when he spoke to Donnellan. “I was upset and said those things,” he said. “I sincerely apologize. I was way out of line with what I said to you, and it should not have happened. It did, and I take full responsibility. And I’m sorry.”
Devine added that he understood why Donnellan was upset and he would have been upset in his place.
“It was way out of line. I apologize,” said Devine.
Donnellan said he appreciated the remarks, and added that though he was uncomfortable in doing so, he considered the need to air the issue.