Board grilled on choices

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RUMFORD – Two longtime municipal board members, upset that they’d been replaced with new blood, confronted selectmen at Thursday night’s board meeting in the town hall.

Former selectman Jim Thibodeau and Parks Commission member Rick White accused the board of improprieties and, indirectly, personal vendettas, when selectmen appointed people to municipal boards at their July 5 meeting.

“You have someone new who wants to be on, so, you put the old boys out to pasture?” Thibodeau, a former Rumford Water District Board member of six years, said.

Referring to the board’s July 5 meeting, Thibodeau said he was confused, because selectmen recognized him for his more than 50 years of serving on municipal boards and committees, but wouldn’t reappoint him to the water district board.

Prior to Thibodeau and White addressing the board, selectmen voted to fill vacancies on municipal boards with candidates. Next, after Selectman Mark Belanger suggested reappointing members to one-year terms on the Land Use Ordinance Committee, the board unanimously did so.

That riled both Thibodeau, White, and another resident in the audience.

“I had my name in for the board and I had six years in, and tonight Mark suggested people be put back on. Why tonight is it OK to be put back on, but on another night, not OK to be put back on?” Thibodeau asked.

He then started to ask selectmen individually why they didn’t choose him, but board Chairman Greg Buccina interrupted, telling fellow selectmen they didn’t need to respond.

Newly-elected Selectmen Frank DiConzo said he’d abide by his vote, but gave no reason, as did Belanger.

Smiling broadly, Selectman Arthur Boivin, said, “I’m glad I live in the U.S.A. and can make choices the way I want without having to give explanations.”

“I was always taught that if you’re man enough to make choices -,” Thibodeau started to say before being interrupted by resident Seth Carey, seated way in the back.

“The citizens have already spoken and you lost!” Carey yelled.

Buccina then drowned out Carey using an amplified microphone, quelling the outburst.

“I hope the citizens of Rumford take a good look at this. You people aren’t doing the actions of the town,” Thibodeau said.

“It’s nothing personal. We’re just trying to give someone else a chance,” Belanger said.

White then stepped up and began handing out copies of town committee candidate information sheets for himself and Jason Thompson, whom selectmen chose over White to fill the three-year term on the Parks Commission. But Buccina halted the handouts.

Thompson’s sheet states that he was an employee of the Parks department for three summers from 1998 through 2000, whereas White’s states that he is a SAD 43 teacher and coach and has the experience to maintain athletic fields. White also served as chairman, vice chairman and secretary in his 19 years on the commission.

White then accused selectmen of altering questions during their candidate interview process and unfairly comparing his application with Thompson’s.

Like Thibodeau, he then sought rationale from individual selectmen.

“I have my reasons, Rick, and I decline to go public with them,” DiConzo said.

Belanger said he’d e-mailed his response earlier to White, and Boivin reiterated what he said to Thibodeau, prompting an outburst from Thibodeau.

“You’re in a public office and open forum. I think you owe us a rationale. I was not asked one question at the interview process. This whole thing smells, and it’s personal. If it wasn’t personal, you’d stand up and be counted,” he said.

Buccina then ended discussion and moved on to the next agenda item.

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