CANTON — Articles that sought to raise funding for two special investigations into municipal government actions were soundly defeated Thursday night during an unsanctioned special town meeting.
One investigation desired by the group of citizen activists running the meeting sought to examine what they consider improper spending at the municipal transfer station; the other wanted to examine fire Chief Shane Gallant's "fitness" for duty.
Chris Dailey, the businessman behind the meeting, said afterward that he had achieved his goal and made town history, despite acknowledging defeat by the majority.
"I wanted the town to accept the money that it would cost to investigate this and make the town run right, you know," he said. "I wasn't after anybody's skin. I was doing it because I don't like wasting money and they wasted all kinds of money."
He added, "Last year they spent money on this and that and they seem to have an endless fund, for which that endless fund has a direct line right into my pocket," Dailey said. "My taxes now are over $3,000 a year. I'm paying over $300 a month just for the privilege of living in the town of Canton and what do I get? Grief? High taxes?"
Dailey said the meeting went almost as he expected.
"I was kind of hoping I'd get enough people woken up so they'd protest, but I guess I woke up the wrong people," he said. "I had a fairly good turnout on my side, but I didn't have enough power, I guess. I'm kind of disappointed, but, oh well. I'm not going to go any further."
Selectman Don Hutchins, who countered Dailey's arguments on the selectmen's behalf during the 25-minute meeting, said afterward that it was "unfortunate that it came to this."
"I hope we can put it behind us, and no matter how you felt on the situation — whichever side you were on — we're all still taxpayers and we're all still members of this town and we should all be over this and move forward and make the town prosper," he said. "There is good people on both sides. They just have strong opinions and this is the mechanism to get it out."
After Ben McCollister was elected moderator, he read the second article, asking voters to consider retaining a lawyer to conduct an independent investigation of capital improvements to the municipal transfer station, and whether those improvements were “lawful and properly authorized under state law” and local ordinances and resolutions.
Dailey alleges that the town spent $5,000 at the transfer station without voter authorization to insulate a building they aren't going to heat.
However, Selectman Lisa Cummings countered Dailey's argument before he had a chance to make it.
Reciting minutes from 2011, Cummings said selectmen acknowledged a $4,500 carryover in the transfer station budget for insulating the building. She said the project's total bill was $4,500.
She then read a 2008 article that sought voter authorization for projects costing a minimum of $5,000, but that article was voted down, Cummings said.
Dailey argued his point, using a chart to detail what he said were itemized costs totaling more than $5,000 for the project. He, too, recited meeting minutes and claimed the board wanted to spend $4,500 to install a furnace at the transfer station.
However, Town Administrator Kathy Hutchins and Selectman Don Hutchins argued otherwise.
Dailey made more allegations, prompting Don Hutchins to say, "This is nothing but a bunch of mud being thrown up against a wall to see what's going to stick."
He said selectmen are tasked by taxpayers with managing the town and that's what they've been doing.
"We improved a building in the town. That's our job," he said to loud applause from supporters.
Don Hutchins said there is no public money that's unaccounted for and that the Attorney General "doesn't want to deal with this, because there's no laws broken."
The question was moved and the matter defeated.
There was no discussion on the third article, which sought an independent investigation to determine whether fire Chief Shane Gallant violated state or local laws and ordinances by carrying a concealed weapon on a fire call in 2010 and in November 2011 "when a person was placed in the fire chief's vehicle in the presence of unsecured firearms."
That, too, was overwhelmingly defeated.