JAY — Selectmen voted Monday in a split decision to not re-appoint longtime Budget Committee member Barbara Cook to another two-year term, Town Manager Ruth Cushman said Tuesday.

Four other members were unanimously re-appointed in separate motions, she said.

Prior to the vote on Budget Committee appointments, Cushman said, Selectman Amy Gould had expressed concerns about people being rude and disrespectful while serving on town boards.

Cushman said the vote was 2-2 with Vice Chairman Warren Bryant and Tom Goding voting to appoint Cook, and Chairman Steve McCourt and Gould voting against Bryant’s motion to appoint her.

Cook has served on both the Budget Committee and Planning Board for more than 20 years, Cook said Tuesday. She expects to receive a letter about the decision.

“I’m not upset. If that’s the way it is and they don’t want me, that’s fine,” Cook said. No one has complained to her about her actions, she said, and if they did, and she owed them an apology, she would have given it.

She believes the decision was prompted by a comment she made during a selectmen’s meeting, as a Planning Board member, in November. Planning Board members, including herself, voiced concerns about not being notified early about Verso Paper’s request to review the town’s environmental ordinance during the meeting. McCourt said then, mill officials wanted to see if portions of the ordinance could be suspended if there was a duplication of state and local environmental permitting laws. The Planning Board oversees the ordinance.

However, Gould denied that reasoning Tuesday.

She contacted Budget Committee Chairman Pearl Cook about two years ago, about speaking with Barbara Cook regarding her behavior at budget meetings, Gould said.

“My complaint surrounded an incident during the budget meeting that year, which, in my opinion, was disrespectful and insulting toward another committee member,” Gould said.

Prior to a vote on this year’s Budget Committee appointments, Gould said she asked Cushman to contact Pearl Cook (no relation to Barbara Cook) “to discuss Barbara’s future conduct toward others during meetings.”

“It was her understanding from Ruth,” Gould said, “that part of Barbara’s reply to Pearl was that if she is a member of a committee, she can say what she wants. I don’t have a problem with any questions Barbara has asked, it’s the manner in which she asks them and comments which are sometimes made. While I respect the time and effort Barbara has committed to the town by being on committees, I feel that in the past she has exhibited disrespectful conduct toward others during committee meetings and that type of behavior is not conducive to healthy debate.”

McCourt said he voted against the appointment because of some issues brought to the board’s attention about rude comments made at budget meetings.

“We’ve had several complaints about how (Barbara Cook) conducts herself in budget meetings,” McCourt said. “We’ve had Pearl talk to her a couple of times, and so that’s where we are.”

Pearl Cook said she has had no complaints about Cook other than from Gould two years ago. She spoke to Barbara Cook after Cushman asked her to on Gould’s direction.

She e-mailed results of the interchange to Cushman on Dec. 30. She forwarded that e-mail to the Sun Journal Tuesday.

According to the e-mail, Pearl told Barbara Cook that selectmen “are concerned with some of your questions and comments as being inappropriate and/or insulting and sometimes lengthy instead of to the point on the article on the table. They feel expressing an opinion is fine as long as it is in a civil manner. They have asked me, as chair of the committee, to speak to you and ask if you would be willing to conduct your questions and comments in a civil manner?”

Barbara Cook’s reply, according to the e-mail, was she’s never had a problem with the town budget but has with the school budget.

“She feels when she asks a question she is entitled to an answer especially when a dollar figure appears in more than one line and she gets no explanation. … She said she will do her best to keep questions and comments civil but she will stick to her beliefs,” the e-mail states.

“Barbara asks questions but so don’t other members … Barbara speaks her mind,” Pearl Cook said. “She is very knowledgeable. It’s going to be a loss for the Budget Committee.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.