ANDOVER – Citing harassment, derogatory and threatening messages, two Andover selectmen resigned at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

However, unlike Chairman Jeff Rainey, who abruptly walked out after reading his resignation letter, Selectman Hope Peterson said on Wednesday afternoon at the town office that she would stay to help Selectman Susan Merrow operate town business until July 17.

That’s when a special town meeting will be convened at 7 p.m. in the town hall to elect two people to fill Rainey’s remaining eight months and Peterson’s remaining 18 months.

Nomination papers will be available at the town office on Monday, June 23, and must be returned no later than 4 p.m. on July 2.

Also resigning on Tuesday night was water district trustee Ronald A. Wells, effective at 10 p.m. Monday, June 23.

Wells, who is Rainey’s father-in-law, had served on the board since 1997, Peterson said.

According to a tape recording of Tuesday night’s meeting, Rainey, Peterson and Merrow OK’d several town warrants before Rainey abruptly addressed the large crowd gathered in the town hall.

“To the citizens of Andover, it saddens me greatly to make this announcement tonight,” Rainey said, reading from his letter.

“Throughout the past year, this office has come under great scrutiny by a select few individuals to the point that it’s now affected my family. I have great respect for the people who work for this town.”

He identified them as “some of the finest people I have worked with” and wished them well, but said he suspects that they, too, will soon resign.

“When I decided to run for selectman, it was to give back to a community that I love dearly, not to be harassed, called names and have derogatory and threatening messages left on my message service at home, I might add, for my children to witness and listen to, and to have every last move I make micro-analyzed.

“I do not like the direction the town of Andover is moving in. Our nice small town is being pulled down around us. I hope the citizens will fight to keep their unique town and its heritage intact,” Rainey said.

Then he walked out.

Next, Peterson tended her resignation, but did not read her letter, which states she is thankful to people who have supported her during “the past several months through some very difficult and trying situations.”

“I have found recently that my personal life has been scrutinized by several residents in town. I find this to be offensive. This has affected my health and my family, which I can no longer tolerate,” said Peterson, who has served Andover for more than five years.

Neither Rainey nor Peterson attributed the distress to anyone, but Peterson’s next statement indirectly attacked Merrow, which Peterson confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.

Merrow was elected to the board at the March town meeting.

“I can’t in good faith continue to serve on a board where one member has the ability to manipulate their own agenda, which only serves the will of a small group of supporters,” Peterson said.

Merrow said Wednesday night by phone that she wasn’t advised that Peterson and Rainey were going to resign until 45 minutes before Tuesday night’s meeting “even though they notified the Bureau of Motor Vehicles last Friday.”

Peterson, contacted Wednesday night, said that wasn’t true.

“She told me that Jeff told her about it last week,” Peterson said.

Merrow also said that Peterson never introduced her letter of resignation into public record Tuesday night, which Peterson said was correct.

“I did it orally after Jeff did. I said, ‘I am resigning.’ That’s because I didn’t have the letter with me at the time, but it is in (Merrow’s) mailbox today,” Peterson said.

“It takes an effort of commitment and time to bring everyone together, but it does not have to be this hard. The past months have been difficult, (but) I’m optimistic about the future,” Merrow said.

“Andover is a great place to live, but town government can be challenging and requires a willingness to work together. This unwillingness to compromise is never a good thing in any civilization.”

Rainey declined comment Tuesday night and did not return a call Wednesday.

Peterson said, “This board since March has been dysfunctional, and board members do not communicate with each other and, it would be in the town’s best interest to put a new board together and hopefully work to get resolved some of these pressing issues,” Peterson said.

Additionally, she confirmed that she has requested both state police and county sheriff presence at selectmen’s meetings this year to quell unruly behavior as has happened at past board meetings.

State police, however, deferred Tuesday night to Sheriff Wayne Gallant, who waited outside town hall in his police cruiser until after the meeting adjourned.

“We put him on alert and state police, because it makes the people feel more comfortable knowing that if something was to start up, it would be quickly resolved,” Peterson said.

According to the tape, after Peterson said she would stay until July 17.

“It is my wish to stand in solidarity with the two selectpersons who are also resigning tonight. I feel their pain,” Wells stated as his first reason for resigning.

He added, “Serving in any capacity with the current situation that exists in Andover, where all individuals who are trying to serve diligently, are being constantly attacked and criticized. It is not an environment in which I care to participate.”

After that, according to the tape, resident Wayne Delano spoke.

“I understand where you’re coming from,” he told Peterson. “I thank you for not putting the town in a vulnerable situation by up and walking out the door.”

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