Berkshire Eagle 12/08/2013, Page B01
By Phil Demers
Berkshire Eagle Staff
HINSDALE — A group of more than 300 Hinsdale residents have signed a petition asking Select Board Chairwoman Bonnie Conner to throw in the towel.
“We’re not in agreement with the way ( Conner) is representing the people of Hinsdale,” said David Kokindo, who collected the signatures.
Kokindo, a former selectman, presented the petition to Conner during last week’s board meeting. It was signed by 304 residents, which amounts to about 57 percent of voter turnout in the last election.
Opponents cite what they believe are misuse of town funds, inequitable treatment of town employees and improper running of regular meetings. But at the center of the turmoil is the recent vote to relieve Police Chief Nancy Daniels of her duties.
Conner has told The Eagle that mistruths spread by bitter political opponents are fueling the initiative. She could not be reached for additional comment.
Last week, the board placed Daniels on administrative leave because she has not completed training that is mandated by the state for all full-time police officers.
Daniels, who had served 13 years as a part- time officer with the department before being named chief in January, had until Nov. 20 to complete the training. She failed the training once and an ankle injury prevented her from completing the training at the next opportunity, and the state Municipal Police Training Committee has refused to grant her a waiver until the next available training in February.
But her supporters say the board could circumvent the requirement by simply dropping Daniels to 32 hours per week. Daniels has completed all state-required training for part- timers.
“That’s all you have to do,” said Rodney Maloney, who has led the department since Daniels was put on leave. “I find it strange that this is being made into such an issue.”
Daniels said she requested such an arrangement via email, but Conner rejected it. The selectmen will decide on the chief’s status at next week’s regular meeting.
The petition, which cannot force Conner to resign, carries enough weight to trigger a special town meeting, during which the signers’ complaints against the chairwoman will occupy center stage. The board must schedule the meeting within 45 days.
For his part, Kokindo aims to push his petition further.
Namely, he’d like to see a new state law hit the books that would empower 25 percent of registered voters who voted in the previous gubernatorial election to oust an elected official with a recall petition — like the one he submitted last week.
Just such a bill — Bill H.556 — presently sits in wait for a state House of Representatives vote. It’s cleared the Senate already, Kokindo said.
He plans to begin a second, statewide petition and hopes state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru will support the initiative.
“ This is how government works. Put it in the people’s hands and we can handle it in our own way.”
In an interview with The Eagle, Mark said the petitioners need not push to change state law.
“I’ve done this for the town of Northfield,” he saidFriday. “They wanted the authority to recall elected officials in the town. Town Meeting approved the article and sent it to me as a home rule petition, and I passed it through the legislative process.
“If the town of Hinsdale is going to approach me with the same thing, I will absolutely file it for them.”
Northfield’s bill, Mark said, mirrored the proposed state law in its details.