Friday, March 10, 2017
Flamboyant Brookfield town employee reprimanded for behavior
BROOKFIELD - A town employee known for criticizing town officials on a large sign on Route 9 has been reprimanded for "inappropriate behavior."
Advisory Committee Chairman John David Holdcraft waived his right Tuesday night to an executive session, to discuss discipline or dismissal and allowed the session to be open to the public.
"With one condition," Mr. Holdcraft said, "that the truth gets told by the one who's bringing this to the board. That would be you, (Selectman) Clarence (R. Snyder III) ... Let the town people see the nonsense and where our money's being wasted."
Mr. Snyder originally argued that Mr. Holdcraft is a town employee and his sign postings criticizing town officials create a "hostile work environment." However, Mr. Holdcraft has argued that he is a town resident, and not a town official, and what he puts on the sign on his property is protected by the First Amendment; town counsel, KP Law, has agreed with that argument.
In the meeting Tuesday, Mr. Snyder referenced an Oct. 14 complaint made by Highway Superintendent Herbert A. Chaffee II about a sign message that said, "Do you think our highway boss needs to be on sedatives??" and a Dec. 8 sign message that said, "Clarence Snyder is hiding the truth behind the wall with his lies."
Mr. Snyder also cited a Dec. 13 selectmen's meeting in which he handed Mr. Holdcraft a typed letter that alleged, "Your continued behavior to list names of town employees and related defamatory remarks on your signage along Route 9 creates a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is a form of harassment." In response, Mr. Holdcraft picked up a metal wastebasket, placed it on the table and threw the letter into the wastebasket.
"I asked you, politely, to remove my name from the sign at that time," Mr. Snyder said Tuesday night. "You grabbed that wastebasket right there and propped it up here on the table and slammed it down."
"No, it was not slammed down. It was set down very gingerly," Mr. Holdcraft countered. "You know why I did that? Everyone in this town missed the point. The point was the conversation was in the trash before we started it because I have the right on that sign, freedom of speech."
Not only did he insist that the wastebasket incident was "appropriate" behavior, Mr. Holdcraft said, "It's using a prop. Tonight, I was going to bring a shovel in, just in case it got deep in here, but decided not to."
In addition, Mr. Holdcraft chastised Mr. Snyder for costing the town almost $2,000 by calling town counsel several times for their opinion on this matter.
Then, Mr. Snyder brought up a Feb. 16 incident in which Mr. Holdcraft took a photocopy of a picture of Mr. Snyder that appeared in the Telegram & Gazette with the headline, "Confusion on official procedures in Brookfield could impact fire chief's situation," scrawled the caption "He's a confused man" and placed it in front of the Town Hall employees' mailboxes.
"You don't like it just because it says you're a confused person," Mr. Holdcraft said. "On the bottom, it (the original headline) also says, "Confused on procedures" and there was no confusion on procedures. You're the one that's confused, not the procedure book."
Mr. Snyder insisted Mr. Holdcraft's action, which he has accepted that he did, is "insubordination" toward the Board of Selectmen, while Mr. Holdcraft countered that it was his right of freedom of speech.
"It's no different than me coming up here in public access and calling you a puppet, which I have in the past," Mr. Holdcraft said. "You're an elected official. This isn't Romper Room. What you got, thin skin? You can't take criticism? People talk bad about me every day in this town because I'm making people accountable in this town and they don't like it."
Mr. Snyder accused Mr. Holdcraft of misappropriating town resources, by making a photocopy of the newspaper, and intimidating town employees by placing the photocopy in front of the employees' mailboxes.
"Wow, a piece of paper. Do you know I haven't taken my money from the Planning Board, two stipends? Do you know I donated all the drinks one year for the Memorial Day parade? And all the hours I put in this town and you are coming after me for a piece of paper and a little ink," Mr. Holdcraft said. "I can say what I want to say, as long as it's, you know, not bad."
Despite Mr. Holdcraft's apologizing for "making a funny image" of Mr. Snyder and leaving it near the mailboxes, Mr Snyder's saying he accepted Mr. Holdcraft's apology and the two men shaking hands, Mr. Snyder still made a motion to suspend Mr. Holdcraft from the advisory board. The motion wasn't seconded and failed.
However, Selectman Linda M. Lincoln, vice chairman of the board, made a second motion that a "verbal written warning" go into Mr. Holdcraft's file and be reflected in the meeting minutes, which was seconded by Mr. Snyder. The motion passed 2-1, with Stephen J. Comtois II, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, voting against it.