RUMFORD – Following a series of closed-door meetings, selectmen late Thursday chastised two selectmen for their role in the removal of two trees from the front of the Municipal Building last month without proper authorization.

Selectmen Frank DiConzo and Arthur Boivin must issue a public statement at the next board meeting Dec. 20 explaining the “necessity for following proper procedure,” according to a board statement read by Selectman Mark Belanger.

DiConzo and Boivin participated in Thursday’s executive sessions. They did not comment after the meetings ended.

The board held nine separate executive sessions conducted over more than a 90-minute period involving people who lodged formal complaints about the tree removal. Three of the nine complainants appeared in person. A fourth, former Selectman Jolene Lovejoy, was represented by lawyer Peter Kaynor.

Filing complaints but absent from the sessions were former Selectman Jim Rinaldo, Dorothy Dunton, Myrtle McKenna, and Jim and Linda Macgregor. Glenn Gordon also entered a closed session to discuss his complaint.

Each met with the board and Town Manager James Doar, and all but Judy O’Neil and Theresa Fraser met with town lawyer Tom Carey in those sessions as well. O’Neil and Fraser requested that Carey not be included in their individual closed sessions. O’Neil said she asked Carey to remove himself from the session because she was not comfortable with him there. Fraser said she has known the Carey family for many years.

The action by selectmen Thursday resolves each of the complaints. Belanger joined fellow Selectmen Greg Buccina and Brad Adley in admonishing DiConzo and Boivin for their role in cutting down the trees.

“This issue has been fully discussed, and we have the need to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Buccina said.

The tree-cutting incident took place during the early morning hours of Nov. 5. At that time, Boivin and DiConzo, and Boivin’s brother, former selectman and former fire chief Eugene Boivin, felled the trees, which were more than 50 years old, then asked Doar to direct the public works crew to clean up the mess left behind on Congress Street.

Selectmen in October had unanimously voted to have the town’s public works crew remove the maples. Public Works Director Andy Russell said at the time that he had already made a verbal agreement with a subcontractor to remove the trees. Because of the action taken by the Boivins and DiConzo, Russell’s crew was taken off another job and directed to clean up the trees.

Before the closed sessions Thursday night, resident Angie Arsenault defended the actions taken by the three.

“I believe there was no malice (in the action.) Please remember all the good they have done. Are we neglecting to see the good they do? This was for the good of the town,” she said.

Resident Theresa Fraser, one of the nine who lodged official complaints, had a different viewpoint.

“This was a misuse of power. People would like to know what will be done,” she said.

O’Neil had requested that all nine complaints be heard in public rather than behind closed doors.

Carey said statute allows those accused in a complaint to choose whether they want proceedings held in public.

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