Select Board Members Trade Insults Over Golf Committee Appointments

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH – A select board discussion on the appointments of three new members to the golf committee opened festering wounds over disagreements on the status of the group and who should be serving on the advisory committee for the municipal golf course.

At the May 28 select board meeting, board member Donald Howard attacked the lack of women on the golf committee, calling it a “boys’ club.” He called other board members bullies and told them to “shut up.”

Member Michael MacAskill, in turn, called Howell “a blowhard and “a political hack.”

The donnybrook began with Howell taking exception to the agenda item for the appointment of Frank Wiacek, Jr., Eric Clark, and John Adams to the golf committee. Howell, as a member of the select board interview subcommittee, said the agenda wording “committee recommendations” was not accurate, arguing that the subcommittee is made up of two members, he and select board member Michael MacAskill, and Howell said he did not recommend bringing the appointments forward.

Howell queried Town Administrator Joseph Powers over how the recommended names got on the agenda. MacAskill said he was responsible.

Howell said he had sent a text message to chair Julie Kavanagh on April 12 stating that he disagreed with bringing the appointments forward. MacAskill said he was not aware of that text message.

The central point, Howell said, is that while he is not an expert about golf matters, he knows a thing or two about the way boards and committees function.

“This board went after the current golf committee members and basically eviscerated everything by not allowing them to meet,” Howell said. “There is nowhere in the charter that grants us that authority.” He said he was disturbed over the demographics of the committee. “I’m proud of seeking out opportunities for many, many women to serve in committee positions. Three of the seven were women before the board blew [the golf committee] up. This committee has always been a boys’ club. It’s reverting back to a boys’ club, make no mistake about it.”

Howell said over 55 percent of the town’s population is female, adding that taxpayers throughout the town have been supporting Cranberry Valley Golf Course and should be represented on the committee. He also said that he was the only member of the committee to interview all three of the candidates.

Select Board Chair Julie Kavanagh asked how many females applied for the golf committee. MacAskill said there were no female applicants.

“I have confirmation no one in the office received minutes for the golf committee appointments. I know you are going to do what you want tonight, as you often do, but that does not make it right,” said Howell.

MacAskill said when the interview subcommittee does not agree with appointments it goes to the full board for deliberation.

“It goes to the board as a non-recommendation. It was not recommended by the interview committee,” responded Howell.

“As long as I’ve been here, if we don’t agree, it goes on the agenda for open debate. Your accusation of Open Meeting Law violation” — the disputed agenda item wording — “is just more of the same from you,” said MacAskill. “You’re a blowhard, a political hack and I’m not taking it. As far as I’m concerned this debate belongs in this room.”

Kavanagn agreed that when there is a disagreement among subcommittee members, the deliberations go to the full board.

MacAskill and select board member Jeffrey Handler took issue with Howell’s assessment of the board “blowing up” the golf committee. MacAskill said Howell was the center of the golf committee problem when he served as the liaison.

“I take a little offense with Howell’s narrative about blowing up the golf committee,” said Handler. “It’s widely, widely inappropriate.”

Howell said while serving as liaison for a year he tried to work to straighten out the issues between the committee and staff at the course.

“You’re twisting the truth,” he said. “I’m tired of you bullying me, so shut up.”

Handler said the golf committee, which has not met since last fall, needs to meet and the three candidates proposed are viable. He took issue with Howell’s assessment that there is inequity when appointing members to committees; there are some committees made up mostly of women, he said.

“What we need [are] really good people to do really good things for a really good town,” said Handler. He also said the status of members still listed on the golf committee is not clear, and there may be one or two more committee appointments necessary, and women would be considered if they apply.

Select board member Peter Piekarski said he was surprised that there were three applicants applying to serve on the committee given its charge, which directs the group to work in public meetings to accomplish the directives of the select board through discussions and input specific to the requests of the board.

“That paragraph alone would prevent me from ever applying to be a candidate for that committee. I’d rather sit at home. That directive is creating disinterest in serving,” said Piekarski.

MacAskill called the discussion a “political football.” The board agreed to continue the discussion to its June 3 session.

With little discussion, the board then approved the appointments of Wiacek through June 30, 2025 and Clark and Adams through June 30, 2027.

Howell cast dissenting votes, objecting to the golf committee as a longtime boys club and citing the gender equality bias.