Hudson School Superintendent Nina Schlikin resigned this week, but the key question - Why? - hasn't been answered in public. In Milford, a developer who has a history with Donald Trump and the Wampanoag Indian tribe, met with the Board of Selectmen in July to talk about the idea of bringing a casino to town, but key questions haven't been answered in public either.
Hudson School Superintendent Nina Schlikin resigned this week, but the key question - Why? - hasn't been answered in public.
In Milford, a developer who has a history with Donald Trump and the Wampanoag Indian tribe, met with the Board of Selectmen in July to talk about the idea of bringing a casino to town, but key questions - Where in town is he looking to build? How would the town benefit? - haven't been answered in public either.
In the Hudson case, School Committee Chairman Tom Green declined to comment on why Schlikin abruptly resigned, even though she had just completed her first year of a 3-year contract. In spite of a concerted effort, the Daily News couldn't locate Schlikin to ask her why.
The school board went into executive session Tuesday night "to conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with non-union personnel." The only non-union personnel on the radar this week is the superintendent, but it's likely the School Committee is trying to figure out some kind of severance to see Schlikin on her way. That reason for an executive session does fall under the short list of reasons allowed under the state Open Meeting Law for a board or town committee closing the doors for a discussion.
The Daily News has filed a request under the state Public Records Law for a copy of Schlikin's resignation letter. Given the tremendous amount of work school board members and others went through in seeking out, interviewing and vetting candidates for the superintendency last year, after long-time, respected Superintendent Sheldon Berman left for a position overseeing the huge Jefferson County, Kentucky, school system, Schlikin's departure came as a surprise, at least to many outside the school system.
But insiders say people were upset about the administrative organization she had put in place during her short tenure. The problem is that, without knowing Schlikin's reason(s) and the School Committee's response, the public is left in the dark about why she resigned.
Was this a bad fit, in spite of the glowing things Schlikin said when she was considering accepting the Hudson superintendent's job? Did search committee members miss something or fail to look deep enough when checking into Schlikin's experience, style and reputation before making an offer?
Could something have been done differently or was this simply a mismatch that couldn't have been anticipated by either side? Those are questions that more transparency at this time might answer.
In Milford, what is described as very early talks between David H. Nunes, a Colorado real estate developer, and town officials, have, so far, been done in private. Nunes told the Milford Daily News this week his casino plan is "very, very, very, very" preliminary but he did reportedly share his vision for a Foxwoods-style resort casino along I-495 with the Milford selectmen, behind closed doors.
The board voted to go into executive session "to discuss real estate negotiations and to meet with Counsel (Town Counsel Gerald Moody) on Verizon negotiations." The Daily News filed a complaint with the Worcester District Attorney's Office under the belief that reason for a closed-door session doesn't meet the requirements of the Open Meeting Law.
The OML says a town board can close out the public and press if the discussion is about the "purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property if an open discussion may have a detrimental effect on the negotiating position of the governmental body with a person, firm or corporation."
The exemptions in the law that allow closed-door meetings are intended to protect the interests of the town and taxpayers, not a private company or individual coming forward with a proposal that could make them a lot of money. Closing the door to keep a casino developer's plans out of the public eye raises a lot more questions than it answers.
Where is the developer looking to locate a casino in Milford? Has he purchased land? Does he want to buy town-owned land to create the resort casino? Is he looking for tax breaks from the town or proposing mitigation in exchange for fast-track approval of his project? How much control would the town even have over the project? What questions do selectmen have for the developer? Do they have concerns or are they inclined to support his idea? What would be the time frame for development of such a project? How would taxpayers benefit - or be harmed - by a casino that could involve hundreds of acres along the highway?
Those are questions that would benefit by more daylight shining on a project that could be the biggest thing to come to Milford and MetroWest since I-495 itself.
But until the Hudson School Committee and Milford selectmen open the door, the public stays in the dark.
Richard Lodge is editor of the Daily News and writes a column published on Friday. His e-mail is email@example.com. To read the state Open Meeting Law: www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/39-23b.htm