By Shaw Israel Izikson, Contributor and Mara Brooks, Editor
Following multiple emails from The News editor Mara Brooks and Investigative Reporter Shaw Israel Izikson, Selectboard Chair Matthew Krasnow agreed to answer questions about business conducted at the board’s regular meeting on Sept. 27.
It was a two-day process for Krasnow to respond to press inquiries in an email where the resigning chair accused The News of inquiries that were “inappropriate”, “incendiary”, and “sensationalizing”, detailed his personal struggles in response to questions about town business, added additional media outlets to the thread after asking The News to keep his communications off the record, and copied the selectboard, the town administrator, the publisher of The News, and others in a sometimes heated exchange.
At the Sept. 27 meeting, Krasnow announced his resignation during an agenda item listed as “Personnel issue and Personnel policy – executive session likely,” but that was held in an open session. Krasnow said he intended to remain on the board as a member.
He then made a two-part motion for the board to approve: the first part was to accept his resignation effective October 10, and the second part was to appoint Selectboard Member James Faulkner as its new chair as of Monday, Oct. 11, right before the next scheduled regular selectboard meeting.
Vice-Chair Frank Tenney objected, stating that the motions should be kept separate, and questioned the idea of Krasnow choosing his own successor.
Tenney’s objections were dismissed by the board, and the motion was passed.
Later in the meeting, a statement was presented along with a timeline of conflict-of-interest allegations made against former Zoning Board of Appeals Member Ronda Moore. The timeline had been prepared by the town attorney. The statement, written by Vice-Chair Frank Tenney, stated Moore had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Moore resigned from the ZBA on July 28 after serving less than three months.
At the June 28 Selectboard meeting, Moore was accused by ZBA chair Lane Morrison of a conflict of interest regarding Evergreen Family Health’s permit application for a Charlotte Health Center. At the meeting, Morrison asked the Selectboard to remove Moore from the zoning board. In an interview with The News last July, Krasnow stated that he believed Moore had behaved improperly by not disclosing her alleged conflict of interest.
Charlotte resident and former ZBA member Stuart Bennett pressured the town in recent months for transparency surrounding its role in Moore’s resignation and the damage to her reputation. Bennett penned a Letter to the Editor in the Sept. 23 issue of The News demanding accountability from the town.
As shown by a dated email, the attorney’s timeline was sent to Krasnow, and Town Administrator Dean Bloch, on Thursday, Aug. 19 — more than a month before its findings were shared with the public.
On Tuesday, The News emailed Krasnow questions about several items discussed at the Sept. 27 meeting.
After receiving no response for more than a day, editor Brooks wrote an email alerting Krasnow that reporter Izikson was trying to reach him for comment before going to press. (Krasnow previously requested that Brooks reach out to him a second time if he did not respond to initial press inquiries.)
Krasnow finally responded to The News on Wednesday in an emotional email. He copied the selectboard and Town Administrator Dean Bloch on the correspondence.
According to Freedom of Information rules, when a full selectboard conducts business via email, it is considered municipal business and therefore a public document.
In response to queries from The News about the Sept. 27 meeting, Krasnow wrote, “This feels like a lot of (negative) pressure.”
“You do realize I work full-time and don’t have the luxury to put down the hammer, rake, tape measure, etc. to write my opinions while I’m getting paid an hourly wage, right?” he wrote.
Krasnow went on to give The News, and those he had copied on the email thread, a detailed accounting of his personal routine and family obligations and asked that it be kept “off the record, please.”
The News again asked Krasnow about the Sept. 27 meeting. Reporters asked why there had been a delay in releasing the town lawyer’s findings and whether the town planned to issue Moore an apology. The News also asked Krasnow when he made the decision to resign, and when each member of the board had been notified of his decision.
Krasnow responded that he felt like a “broken record” and described the questions as “inappropriate” and “sensationalizing.”
“What confuses me is that your (The News) stories are often balanced, measured. and largely accurate,” Krasnow wrote.
Krasnow then copied The Charlotte Bridge editor (and former Charlotte News editor), Chea Evans, on the thread.
In his comments at Monday’s Selectboard meeting, Krasnow indicated he had consulted with Faulkner for a period of time prior to announcing his resignation.
“I’ve been working in the past six months with Jim on a couple of dozen projects, and he seems that he has the time and experience to devote to it,” Krasnow said at the meeting. “My ability and bandwidth have been dwindling, so we have been working more and more together. I think he is doing a great job and I think it will be a smooth transition.”
In an interview with The News, Selectboard Vice-Chair Tenney said he was surprised by Krasnow’s actions at the September 27 meeting.
“What I expected is Matt to say that he was resigning and for us to vote on that, and then the board could decide on how they were going to go from there,” Tenney said.
Tenney said when new board members are voted in, the board usually holds “an organizational meeting.”
“If you look back at our meeting in March, even though Matt was basically the returning chair [after the town elections], the meeting was led as though we had no organization at that time. Tenney said. So, the first thing we did was to elect a chair and a vice-chair,”
Tenney said he had “no idea” that Krasnow was going to resign as chairman and nominate Faulkner to take his place. He suggested it may have been Krasnow’s way of steering the future direction of the select board before stepping down.
“I was totally caught off guard,” Tenney said. “All it said on our agenda was a personnel issue, and that was it. I found out when he (Krasnow) said that he didn’t have the bandwidth [to continue as chair] and that he was going to resign. That was the first time I heard about this.”
The News again asked Krasnow if all members of the board first learned of his resignation at the Sept. 27 meeting.
In response, Selectboard Member Louise McCarren, who had previously told The News she would not disclose when she learned of Krasnow’s resignation because “Jim and Matt speak for the board,” wrote: “This is a personnel matter.”
Krasnow responded he had asked Faulkner if he was willing to assume the role as chair before informing the other board members of his plans to resign.
“I didn’t speak with ‘the board’. I did ask speak [sic] with Jim about it to see if he’d be willing to accept the role,” Krasnow wrote in his first direct response to the question.
Krasnow then stated that he “first thought about stepping back in some way about two weeks ago (after the last meeting). I first spoke with Jim sometime after that.”
Tenney said he did not know why some selectboard members were left in the dark about Krasnow’s plans while others were tipped off sooner.
“I just believe the Selectboard should be transparent within the board and with the public. I don’t see that happening all of the time,” Tenney said.
The string of emails concluded with Krasnow admonishing The News’ efforts to learn whether or not he chose his successor prior to publicly announcing his resignation.
“This process has been a real disappointment from the days of John Hammer’s community reporting,” Krasnow wrote.