Mara Brooks, Editor
Former Zoning Board of Adjustment member Ronda Moore served a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the town requesting “materials relating to my conduct as a member of the Charlotte Zoning Board of Adjustment.”
Moore resigned from the board on July 28 after serving less than three months.
The FOIA request, dated November 1 and addressed to Town Administrator Dean Bloch, seeks materials prepared by town officials, board members, and the town’s general counsel for the period beginning June 3 through October 27 of this year.
The request also refers to news articles published by The News and The Citizen during the same time period.
In a telephone interview with The News on Sunday, Moore said the FOIA request is “the first step, short of litigation, to get closer to the heart of the matter.”
The matter at issue involves public statements made last summer by ZBA Chair Lane Morrison and then-Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow that Moore had violated the town’s conflict of interest policy and/or “perceived conflict of interest” policy.
The trouble began when Morrison showed up at the Selectboard’s June 28 meeting and requested that Moore be removed from the ZBA for failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest with then-applicant The Charlotte Health Center.
“I think she’s violated the trust that the Selectboard has put in her to represent the community on the ZBA,” Morrison said at the time.
Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow joined Morrison in criticizing Moore at the meeting and in later statements to The News, describing her conduct as “unsettling” and “disappointing.”
At the meeting, Krasnow told Morrison that, according to ZBA rules, the zoning board, not the Selectboard, would have to vote on whether to remove Moore.
Moore said she was baffled by Krasnow’s comments about her.
“He made those statements when he had no proof that what Lane was saying about me was true, no evidence, nothing,” Moore said.
In the days after the June 28 meeting, the town consulted with general counsel about the issue, and an investigation was initiated into Moore’s conduct by attorney David Rugh.
At the July 12 Selectboard meeting, resident Stuart Bennett and Selectboard Vice-chair Frank Tenney criticized Krasnow for his comments about Moore, which Bennett claimed had prejudiced the town against her.
On July 14, the day the investigation concluded, the ZBA, including Moore and the town attorney, met in a closed session and decided no action would be taken to remove Moore. Moore had requested the meeting be held in open session and that Lane Morrison recuse himself from the proceedings, but both requests were denied.
When Moore resigned from the ZBA at a zoning board meeting on July 28, Tenney attended the meeting and offered her an apology.
“I would like to apologize for what you had to go through,” Tenney said. “I feel it was unfair.”
On September 23, Bennett penned an op-ed in The News urging officials to release the Moore investigation’s findings.
“Months have passed but nothing has happened,” Bennett wrote. “Matt [Krasnow] and Lane [Morrison] have never been held to account by the Selectboard for their demeaning, and apparently false, allegations which forced a volunteer off the ZBA.”
Four days later, at the Sept. 27 Selectboard meeting, Krasnow released a three-page timeline prepared by town attorney David Rugh that cleared Moore of wrongdoing.
“There were a few selectboard meetings where they could have released it,” Moore said of the timeline. “I know The News asked [Krasnow] about that and he kind of danced around the issue.”
In an email to The News on Sept. 29, Krasnow wrote that the reason the timeline was not made public sooner was because the town did not receive it in time to warn it for the August 23 meeting. As for why it was not released at the September 13 meeting, Krasnow said no one had “requested” an update.
Moore said she does not understand why, nearly three months after being cleared of wrongdoing, Frank Tenney’s apology remains the only one she has received from the selectboard.
“Every member of the selectboard has done the same thing, they’ve all turned their back on the issue,” Moore said. “They haven’t had the courage, except for Frank.”
Matt Krasnow agreed to answer questions from The News on Tuesday in the presence of town lawyer David Rugh and Selectboard Chair Jim Faulkner.
When asked if he had any plans to apologize to Moore, Krasnow said it would depend on what he was being asked to apologize for.
“I stand by all of my statements that are on the record as long as they were accurately recorded and written,” Krasnow said.
The former Selectboard chair said he felt he had been misquoted by the press, and that his statements had been mischaracterized both by reporters and by resident Stuart Bennett.
Attorney Rugh agreed, stating that “general inaccuracies in reporting” were to blame for the “confusion” around the Moore conflict of interest issue.
Rugh said that he “doesn’t know the specifics” about what those inaccuracies were because “I don’t read a lot of the news articles.”
Moore said she hopes documents produced in response to her FOIA request will shed light on why she was falsely accused and why, despite multiple requests from several constituents, the town has refused to clear her name and admit its mistakes.
On Sunday, Moore said, “Look, nobody wants to turn the page on this chapter more than I do, believe me. But I’m going to keep pursuing it until I get that apology.”
When asked if that could include litigation, Moore replied that “nothing is off the table,” but said she hoped it would not have to come to that.
“Charlotte has been my center of gravity all of my life. Yet, I have been treated very, very badly in the town that I love, where my family has lived for 65 years,” Moore said. “I grew up here, attended CCS and CVU here, had my first job here, was married here, buried my aunt, uncle, cousin, and my mother, father and my sister here. Charlotte was my lifeline, but no more. This is not the town I knew.”