Effort Launched To Recall Selectman Peter Meier
By: Diana T. Barth
Former Selectman Jamie J. Sloniecki has picked up the initial paperwork needed to start a recall effort against Selectman Peter J. Meier.
That paperwork calls for the submission of a written statement setting out the reasons why such a recall is necessary. Once that statement has the required number of certified signatures, the town issues copies of a petition citing those reasons. Those petitions must then be signed by at least 10 percent of the town’s voters.
Once those are completed and turned in, a recall election can be called.
A 2007 change to Bourne’s home rule charter makes the recall process easier than it was in 2006, when such a process was started against former selectmen Galon L. (Skip) Barlow and Carol A. Cheli, Town Clerk Barry H. Johnson said. Now, he said, 250 signatures will be needed on the written statement, down from 450, and 10 percent of the voters will need to sign the petitions, down from a previous 20 percent.
Mr. Johnson said 10 percent of Bourne’s voters translates to the need for slightly more than 1,300 signatures.
Reached yesterday, Mr. Sloniecki said he was taking the lead in a recall effort, along with Buzzards Bay resident Suzanne L. Hebb, because he “honestly believes that, in this economy in particular, Mr. Meier is not competent to makes decisions for the town.”
Mr. Meier said on Tuesday that Mr. Sloniecki is complaining about a decision that he, Mr. Meier, made four years ago.
What Mr. Meier does not understand, Mr. Sloniecki said yesterday, is that the full consequences of Mr. Meier’s decision did not surface until this year.
“What decisions,” Mr. Sloniecki asked, “will Mr. Meier make now whose consequences will not be evident until three or four years from now?” What it comes down to, he said, is that “I don’t want him representing me.”
Last week, Mr. Meier took a moment at the end of the selectmen’s regular Tuesday meeting to try to address the issues arising from the publication of a letter by Mr. Sloniecki that gave the reasons for his January of 2012 resignation from the board of selectmen.
The Bourne Enterprise printed Mr. Sloniecki’s letter on May 17.
The missive took Mr. Meier to task for comments he made as a planning board member, in the wake of the very controversial Ocean Pines project. According to Mr. Sloniecki, Mr. Meier allegedly said at the time that he was proud of costing the developer of that project more than $2 million. On January 17 of this year, Mr. Sloniecki said he learned from his friend Mark E. Hebb that the developer of the project, Hebb Builders, had to file for bankruptcy.
Mr. Sloniecki immediately resigned after learning that the planning board could legally have approved the project years earlier, had they wanted to do so.
Last week, in an apparent response to the letter, Mr. Meier read a prepared statement at the selectmen’s meeting.
After Mr. Sloniecki’s letter was made public, Mr. Meier said, he was screamed at and abused in front of his 6 1/2-year-old daughter. It made her cry, Mr. Meier said outside of the meeting.
“This situation is not about my child,” he said, calling publicly for a hands-off policy when it comes to involving family, particularly children, in political issues.
He then went on to vent, something for which he later asked the audience’s forgiveness. He berated the Enterprise for publishing the letter without checking the facts, and said he would stand by his decision on the Ocean Pines project. He said he was part of a 4-2 vote and made his determination based on the facts as presented to him. His decision, he said, was not about Mark, Brian or Suzanne Hebb.
He discussed the statement he made about the developer’s loss, commenting that he also said that he had been “petrified” to visit Ocean Pines for fear of being berated, or beaten, noting that he only weighed 180 pounds at the time.
He then went on to discuss phones calls people had complained of his making, specifically mentioning those regarding the council on aging director and the Pan-Mass Challenge. He was only, he said, doing his due diligence.
When he first came on the board, he said, he sat down with members of Friends of the COA to see what the controversy over their presence at the community building was all about. He railed against the issues raised concerning the Friends over the past few months. He then said, “I may not run next year. I don’t need this. I’m sick of this vendetta, because of what, political gain?” Mr. Meier told the viewing audience he was sorry to vent, but that he had had “enough.” The Friends, he said, have put up with it all these months. Now, he said, it appears to be his turn.
This week, during the public comment period, Mr. Hebb stood up to rebut a portion of Mr. Meier’s statement. Mr. Hebb started his remarks by saying that Mr. Meier, as a planning board member, had “interfered with due process on many levels.” Mr. Hebb then noted that Mr. Meier had mentioned both his wife, Suzanne Hebb, and his brother Brian Hebb, at the same time as he was asking that his daughter be placed off limits.
Mr. Meier also, he said, made it sound as if he, Mark Hebb, was a violent person who would have beat up Mr. Meier had he come to Ocean Pines. He would like, he said Tuesday, a public retraction of that statement.
While board members cannot debate issues raised in public comment, Mr. Meier asked to speak to the point as matter of “personal privilege.”
He said that if he used the names of Mr. Hebb’s family, he was out of line. He then went on to reiterate that he based his Ocean Pines decision on the facts, as presented. He said that he did not, of course, like the ultimate outcome (the Hebb Builders’ bankruptcy), but that there was a risk in purchasing the property that the planning board would not approve the plans.
He said that had anyone asked him, he would have told them what happened.
“It did not have to escalate to this,” he said.
Mr. Meier said he would be writing a letter of rebuttal to Mr. Sloniecki that would be presented to the town’s newspapers within the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Mr. Sloniecki is gathering signatures on the paperwork needed to start the recall process.