Minutes of Non-Public Meeting Released As Swanick Hearing Approaches

Freedom — September 24, 2006 — Freedom’s Selectmen voted to unseal the minutes of the non-public session the board had last week with attorney Deborah Fauver and Conservation Commissioner Theresa Swanick.

Selectman Donna Cupka said the town’s attorney Peter Malia had received a call from Fauver asking to unseal the minutes. Malia reviewed the minutes and okayed their release, she said.

The selectmen are considering removing Swanick from her position on the commission because of a document she wrote summarizing the stewardship plan for the town forest. Last week she met privately with the selectmen to see if they could reach an agreement.

Fauver’s said later, “The Selectmen seemed to think that Theresa was personally trying to limit their authority. But she was really just repeating that opinion from the Municipal Association.”

The Selectmen decided to go ahead with the hearing on her removal on Monday night (Sept. 25) at 8 p.m. at Freedom Town Hall. The minutes of the non-public session noted, “The board voted 2-1 to proceed with the public hearing with an open mind and will make a decision on her removal at the end of the public hearing on the 25th.”

In the non-public session, selectmen met with Malia, Fauver, and Swanick from 8 p.m. to 8:51 p.m., then met Malia alone for about 20 minutes before announcing their decision.

Fauver spoke on Swanick’s behalf “and outlined points surrounding the summary document Theresa had created from the Trout Pond Stewardship Plan.” Swanick’s document did not say that the final authority for management of the town forest rests with the selectmen as is stated in the stewardship plan, and this point was discussed at the meeting.

According to the minutes, “The board questioned Theresa on her actions. There was also discussion on an opinion from Susan Slack of the Local Government Center that did not agree with the Stewardship Plan on who has final authority.”

The minutes also show that the group discussed “a joint meeting with the Freedom Conservation Commission and the Forest Advisory committee with town council there to figure out the specific rules until town meeting. Roger Krusman of TPL [Trust for Public Lands] has also agreed to meet with the boards to review procedures used by other towns.”

Although she was surprised that the minutes had been unsealed, Swanick said she was not concerned about it. “I don’t have anything to hide. I continue to hope this will be resolved on the 25th and we can all get on with the important issues of the forest.”

Favuer said, “Trout Pond is really a good thing for the town, but it’s not a simple thing. The powers that be need to be more patient with each other as the details of the forest management plan get worked out.”

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