Selectboard Chair Seeks Input that Conforms to the Party Line

11/2/20 Selectboard Meeting

by Irene Wrenner

November 14, 2020

The November 2nd Selectboard Meeting began with three members of the public, in turn, protesting a recent Facebook posting by Elaine Haney, Selectboard Chair. 

Posting from this Facebook account, and clearly representing all five members, Haney wrote: “The Selectboard is looking for feedback”. What started as a simple request for feedback went on to accuse “a very small number of people who attend SB meetings” of intimidating those who would otherwise contribute:  

“Please don't let the loud opinions of a very small minority prevent you from telling your elected representatives what you're thinking. WE REALLY NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU”.

How Haney concludes that anyone has been discouraged from speaking out is not specified. Several meeting attendees did not appreciate the Facebook post accusing them of the type of bullying behavior that Haney has exhibited herself.

Bruce Post, who served from 2009-2012, spoke up at the meeting about the Facebook post, noting the similarity between Haney’s statements and those of tyrants he knew of from his work for the federal government.  He repeated statements made in his Facebook response:

“I was trained as a Soviet specialist. I have met Soviet spies. ... I know tyrannical governments, and they all fear small groups of people who challenge structures of power. Therefore, I find Elaine Haney's comments abhorrent. 

“My wife and I have both been active participants in our community. … [We] call out what we feel to be the deception, misinformation and lawbreaking that have characterized the merger effort for years. We don't threaten people, but we speak our minds and ask questions. 

“No-one, I repeat no-one, should be afraid of Mary or me or other people we know who have alternative views to what we see and hear coming out. Elaine Haney should name names and not hide behind her cloak of secrecy.”

At the meeting Post recounted that he found Haney’s post “intimidating, and I find it antithetical to the democratic process, when we should be welcoming people of all opinions and not castigating them if they disagree.”

Betsy Dunn spoke next.  “Understanding both positions on the merger is really a GOOD thing.  There’s nothing wrong with that. … I am appalled by what you [wrote on Facebook],” the former state legislator told Haney. “It’s not what I thought you would ever do”.

In the past Haney has mocked a team of TOV activists by referring to them as “Boris and Natasha” in a series of e-mail messages with Village Trustees on Jan. 17, 2020.

Boris and Natasha, Soviet-like Spies, 

from the 1960’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

Mary Post spoke last. “Because of the way things have been handled, including watching bullying of your own Selectboard members -- which is very difficult to watch -- I just feel that this whole thing has been bad from the start.

 

"...There’s a lot of increased animosity and ugliness in this in our town and the village because of the way that this has been handled. And I blame the Selectboard, especially the [chair].

 

"… The whole thing is just so negative. ... When there are shots being taken and things written like today, it makes it even worse. You mean I can’t be in opposition to something, without being considered a BAD PERSON because I don’t agree with you?”

 

Haney, in response, thanked those who spoke, saying she appreciated the speakers’ honesty and willingness to call her out when her behavior didn’t match expectations. She then disagreed with their characterization of the situation. 

 

Elected officials expect close scrutiny and understand that people won’t always agree with them. On the other hand, she said, “regular folks, who just want to attend our meetings and share their opinions about things ... don’t want to be attacked or face reprisals for their disagreements”.  No examples were provided.

 

Instead, she alluded to significant negativity visited upon those who would otherwise stick their necks out, without a hint of irony.

It was not clear if Haney was referencing the frequent meeting attendees she had accused on Facebook, or unknown others whose input she doesn’t hear at meetings.

She falsely claimed she was accused on Facebook “of being a Russian spy … and all sorts of shenanigans that are simply not the case”. 

Those who spoke out were blamed by Haney for generating negativity around this merger plan, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and “all sorts of nonsense happening, and we are all way better than that. So let’s pledge all of us together right now, going forward, to stop attacking each other.” 

Haney recently showed up uninvited at the home of one dissenter to try to change their mind about merger.  

Rather than recognizing her own tactics as SB Chair, Haney deftly accused those holding her accountable of being bullies and stifling communication.