FAIRHAVEN – Citing polarized politics, Town Counsel Thomas Crotty asked selectmen to remove him from all issues involving the town’s two wind turbines and replace him with a special town counsel.
“I’ve, for whatever reason, been dragged into this,” he said at the board’s Thursday night meeting. “I don’t need any part of it; I’m trying to stay out of town politics.”
Crotty, who has been Fairhaven’s town counsel for 35 years, noted that the town’s turbine politics have become more polarized than ever recently, with Windwise representing turbine opponents and Friends of Fairhaven Wind supporting the turbines.
“If they’re going to make me an issue in this, I don’t want to be,” he said. “I’ll sit back and take care of zoning and planning and everything else.”
Board member Bob Espindola, who was elected in 2012 as the Windwise candidate, first brought up the idea to replace Crotty in July. He also suggested the town bring on a special attorney to assist it only with the wind turbines.
On Thursday the board voted unanimously to ignore Crotty’s request for the time being while it reviews the 15 proposals it has already received from other attorneys seeking to be town counsel.
During the meeting, Espindola compared his suggestion to have a special turbine-only attorney to the town’s using a special contractor to build the Wood Elementary School.
“In the long run this is a very large and complex project and the town will be better served with a specialist,” he said.
Selectman Geoffrey Haworth said it would be financially imprudent to change town counsels “mid-course” on the turbine issue.
He also said he had initially had his doubts about Crotty when he joined the board in April, but now approves of him as counsel.
“I felt he was working more to defend the contract than working on it,” Haworth said. “But as time went on, I see that the truth is he does what he is asked.
“If people have issues with what (Crotty) has done in the past, that’s an issue with the former board he was working for,” Haworth said.
At least 10 members of Friends of Fairhaven Wind were in attendance Thursday evening to support Crotty. They wasted no time in blaming Espindola’s proposal on Windwise.
“Our group hasn’t been the one to make this a political battle,” Dan Freitas of Friends of Fairhaven Wind said. “If Windwise is lobbying for (Crotty) to be removed, you have to ask yourself why. Maybe it’s because they took him to court and he won.”
Other residents present who are unaffiliated with a turbine political group also spoke in support of Crotty’s professionalism, including Cathy Melanson and Peter DeTerra, who is running for Board of Health against John Wethington.
Town Executive Secretary Jeffrey Osuch also spoke in favor of Crotty.
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