Frustrated by spending, Hadley Select Board member quits

  • Donald Pipczynski GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2017

HADLEY — Frustrated by what he views as excessive government spending and an inability to convince his colleagues to rein in expenses, Donald Pipczynski has resigned from the Select Board.

“The biggest thing is we’re spending money in Hadley like a drunken sailor, that’s the best analogy I can make,” Pipczynski said Oct. 11, a day after submitting a letter of resignation to Town Clerk Jessica Spanknebel.

In the letter, Pipczynski writes “with a great deal of sadness, I am submitting my resignation from all elected and appointed positions in Hadley town government.”

Pipczynski said this means he is stepping down as representative to the Hampshire Council of Governments and as a member of the Fire Substation Committee.

Pipczynski, 68, was elected to the board as one of the top two vote-getters in a three-way race in April 2016. He previously served two terms on the board in the 1980s.

Although he was at the center of a controversy last year in which the Select Board asked the state’s Ethics Commission to investigate his alleged flashing of a police-issued commissioner badge to enter an Oktoberfest event at the Hadley Young Men’s Club, Pipczynski said that issue was not a factor in his decision to resign his positions.

In fact, Pipczynski said no one from the state office has even been in touch with him about it.

“They haven’t contacted me or interviewed me,” Pipczynski said.

David Giannotti, spokesman for the Ethics Commission, said he could not confirm or deny whether the incident is under review.

Even if a decision came down from the commission, Pipczynski said his attorney has informed him that there would be minimal punishment, likely just a suggestion not to use the badge again. Pipczynski said that will be easy because he has thrown away the badge.

Pipczynski said his decision to resign was largely driven by the budget discussions leading up to the special Town Meeting on Oct. 5.

A day before that meeting, the board learned that more than $300,000 in additional free cash was coming to Hadley, and that a budget could be developed that would feature three new firefighter positions and preserve all spending approved at annual Town Meeting in May.

Pipczynski said he objected to using free cash to balance the budget and creating an ominous scenario.

“I said if everybody sitting at this table were in the corporate world we’d all be fired,” Pipczynski said. “In essence, I fired myself.”

He was also disappointed that the budget removed stipends from elected officials, including an assessor who has served for 50 years.

Attitudes have changed since he last served on the board, he said, and every decision was subject to extensive deliberation.

“The 2018 budget took a lot of out of me and I just don’t have the energy,” Pipczynski said.

Board Chairwoman Molly Keegan said she appreciated the perspectives Pipczynski brought to the board, noting that differing viewpoints enhance the board’s responsiveness to the community and ability to confront financial challenges.

“I thank Donald tremendously for his service while on the Select Board,” Keegan said.

Town Administrator David Nixon said he notified Keegan of Pipczynski’s resignation and then sent an email to the remaining board members that the vacancy will be a topic for the Oct. 18 agenda. This discussion, he said, could include whether to hold a special election prior to the next general election set for April 10.

Keegan said the board will consult with Nixon and Spanknebel about the possibility of a special election. Having four board members for an extended period of time could add to the workload for each member, she said, and might lead to more split votes.

Nixon also told department heads Wednesday that Pipczynski, who is liaison to Hadley Media and the Hadley School Committee, would no longer have those roles.

Pipczynski said he has worked for Hadley for 53 years, starting as a teenager painting fire hydrants during the summer and shoveling them out during the winter, and will remain involved in town affairs in some capacity.

Leaving his commitments will give him more time to visit his son and daughter, he said, and he already has tickets to take his wife to a National Hockey League game in Quebec this fall between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.