A Selectboard member in Pownal has gone on Facebook to speak his mind about the thousands of town government emails that were released to the public in December.
Pownal has been coping with internal strife after thousands of emails released in December revealed an effort by certain town officials to oust other members of the local government.
The emails, which a town resident obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, featured numerous political conversations, including communications between Selectwoman Marlena Pellon, former colleague Jenny Dewar and former Town Administrator Michael Walker.
Pownal Selectman Bob Jarvis, apparently frustrated by the media coverage of the event, took to social media this month to air his views on the significance of the controversy.
According to Jarvis, the media have ignored the central scandal found in the messages — namely, the emails reveal plotting against political opponents.
“I’m not gonna talk about whether public records should have been made public — of course they should have been made public. They are public records and that’s what transparency is all about,” Jarvis says in the video.
He chastises town officials for the “degrading and denigrating conversation” contained within the emails, and he cites “a real, concerted and aggressive effort to shut people out of participation in their government.”
“What is revealed there is a concerted and aggressive effort to shut people out of boards, of commissions, of committees, and of town positions if ‘the machine’ — the one machine — doesn’t agree with your position,” Jarvis said.
The eight-minute video cites the use of delays, claims of conflict of interest, and character attacks to subvert colleagues.
“I’ve even seen concerted efforts to even change the size of committees, of commissions, and other things in order to get people off those committees, and to get disagreement off,” he added.
Jarvis then calls for “ideological diversity” among town officials, saying that will lead to fair compromises on policy matters.
“What I do care about is ideological diversity — making sure our citizens are represented on our boards, our commissions and our committees.”
Bryan Harris, chair of the Pownal Selectboard, also expressed anger about the emails during a Jan. 13 board meeting.
“I feel the same frustration and anger at the type of language used against some of our citizens by individuals who were supposed to be working for the benefit of the people of the town,” he said in a prepared statement.
At that same meeting, Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth Rowe called for numerous government officials to resign over the controversy, including Pellon, Justice of the Peace Jenny Dewar, Economic Development Committee Chair Shannon McLenithan, Development Review Board and Planning Commission member Michael Slattery, Planning Commission member Syd Smithers, and Recreation Board member and auditor Crystal Gardner.
The emails have been posted on a Facebook page titled “Pownel Government Exposed.” Among other things, the emails indicate that Pellon wanted multiple officials terminated from town government, including the town treasurer, the town clerk and the administrative assistant.
CLARIFICATION: This article was updated at 9:15 a.m. Feb. 28 to characterize the emails as “released,” not “leaked.”