June 27, 2020MOULTONBOROUGH — Board of selectmen chair Joel Mudgett resigned from the board, citing public backlash from the cancellation of summer recreation programs and frustration about town meeting and the town moderator.
Mudgett read his resignation letter at the end of Thursday's selectmen's meeting, handed the chair position to vice chair Kevin Quinlan, and walked out of the meeting.
Mudgett's resignation came after a number of residents protested the selectmen's cancellation of summer recreation activities because of the pandemic.
Earlier in the meeting the board discussed town meeting scheduled for that Saturday (the meeting was postponed due to a court order). The board had intended to make a motion tabling Articles 5 and 6 for two different community center projects until next year given the current economic circumstances. The board then heard that a number of supporters of Article 6, a petition article that would put a community center at the Taylor property, would fight any efforts to table this article. Mudgett said if that was the case he would personally not make any motion to table Article 5, the selectmen's proposal to build a community center on the former Lions Club property.
Mudgett said he had heard from Town Moderator Paul Punturieri a rumor saying this effort to push Article 6 was in retaliation to the board's vote canceling summer recreation programs, including the summer day camp.
"I am rather disappointed we have turned this into such a show, and according to Mr. Punturieri, it's because we were picking on the Rec Department, according to him," Mudgett said at the end of the meeting.
Mudgett then read his letter of resignation effective that night.
"There is always more than one side to the story," Mudgett wrote. "I feel it best for me to move on before I say something that should not be said. I have always enjoyed working with the boards, town employees, and also the town residents." He followed with, "maybe that'll please some people and maybe we can move on and get by some of this stupidity, but to me it is totally ridiculous to continue on this way so if me going home and being all done will help it all I'm glad to do it."
Mudgett said he had recently got a "new toy" and was looking forward to being able to enjoy himself over the summer and not working around the clock.
Mudgett handed control of the meeting to Quinlan, then picked up his things and walked into the audience.
Members of the board thanked Mudgett for his service. Selectmen Chuck McGee and Jean Beadle asked him to reconsider.
Mudgett said he was hurt at the insinuation that the board was picking on the Rec Department. He said he had talked a lot with Recreation Director Donna Kuethe over the phone about the topic, and said he would be amazed if Kuethe would say they were picking on people.
"I think maybe if this'll help calm things down then so be it, that would be the best thing that can happen," Mudgett said.
Selectman James Gray said he didn't think it was going to help at all, and the other board members agreed.
"I don't know, I'm just sorry," Mudgett said. "I think you guys are fighting one big fight."
Mudgett also talked about the issue of town meeting and Punturieri keeping the meeting as scheduled for Saturday, despite the board and town residents advising him to reschedule it. Mudgett said having a moderator with a blog on town issues, "you're not going to win against that"
"I never thought it was right, and he's really proven...he's not staying in the middle of the program," Mudgett said. "That's my opinion. Whether anybody likes it or not, I don't care."
Mudgett gave his keys to Town Administrator Walter Johnson and walked out of the meeting.
"I would like to thank you for all your support over the years, and all your hard work," Quinlan said as Mudgett was leaving. "You've done a hell of a job, and I really appreciate it."
The town is now seeking a new selectman. The board is accepting letters of interest from eligible residents to fill the position until the next election in March of 2021.