Town Councilors Bradley Benson and Neil Wetherbee walked out on their constituents at a council meeting July 9.
Ironically, the two stormed out before the meeting adjourned during a discussion on the public forum portion of council meetings.
More than two hours and 20 minutes into the meeting, Councilor Mark Osborne broached the subject, saying he believed there ought to be more give and take between councilors and members of the public who attend and speak out.
The discussion — and it was that only in the loosest definition of the word — followed that night’s public forum, during which just two taxpayers spoke.
One of those two, real estate agent and landlord Steve Trefethen, speaks at almost every Town Council meeting. What he has to say generally doesn’t sit well with councilors or Town Administrator John Anderson.
In fact, before the public forum, Anderson took it upon himself to tell the council and audience just how much the town has spent on legal fees battling Trefethen in court. Understandably, Trefethen approached the microphone and responded. Again, Anderson interjected, blurting out, “What he says is not correct.”
It was ugly, but there was more to come.
Anderson, now on paid administrative leave while under police investigation, was out of line. Trefethen may have been, too, but he’s a taxpayer, not a public employee paid nearly $125,000 to work for the town.
But he may be the least of the problem.
Benson and Wetherbee, who often have found themselves on the short end of votes since the elections in March, apparently believe the public has no place at Town Council meetings. Or, perhaps, they do, but believe taxpayers should be seen and not heard.
“I’m not seeing a lot of productive discussion coming out of public forum,” Wetherbee said.
The same often can be said for internal discussions as well. The tension is knife sharp and the council so divided, Chairman Michael Fairbanks is often found floundering in the middle of the mess.