Reversal of Fortune

24Nov16

Call them the gang that couldn’t shoot straight – unless they’re aiming at their own foot. Then again, calling the Wakefield Civic League a “gang” probably overstates their numbers.

bronwyn-della-volpeYou have to feel a little sorry for the Wakefield Civic League, aka Bronwyn Della-Volpe. Everything they try to do seems to backfire on them.

Take her latest move. She applied to be appointed to the Bylaw Review Committee. Then once the Board of Selectmen decided to give her a chance and appointed her, she said, “Nevermind,” and rejected the position.

Not that the selectmen were eager to appoint her in the first place, questioning her commitment to the best interests of the town and citing her history of less than above-board tactics. Selectman Brian Falvey argued hard against appointing her. One of his principal objections was the fact that in her role as president of the Civic League she had acted as a “self-appointed watchdog” over town government.

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But against their better judgment, the majority of selectmen decided to give Della-Volpe the benefit of the doubt one more time.

“We’re always telling people who squawk that they should get involved,” they reasoned. And here she was, offering to get involved. How, in good faith, could they say no?

So they said yes.

Then she said no.

The selectmen had voted to appoint her at their Oct. 24 meeting.

On Oct. 25, they sent her a form letter advising her that, like every other elected and appointed official in Massachusetts, she would have to complete the state Ethics Commission’s online Conflict of Interest training and file the required certifications with the Town Clerk.

This apparently presented a problem for our prospective public servant.

On Oct. 28, Della-Volpe wrote a letter to the board:

“In light of my involvement with the 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization the Wakefield Civic League Corp., I am meeting with Counsel this week to discuss the entire matter, and in particular, the Conflict of Interest Document.”

She broke the sad news to the selectmen in a Nov. 7 letter.

“On advice of Counsel, and after careful consideration, I must decline my appointment to the Bylaw Review Committee.”

brian_falvey_headSo she declined the appointment due to her role as a self-appointed watchdog. I’m guessing the irony was not lost on Selectman Falvey. I’m also pretty sure this marks the first time that Falvey and Della-Volpe have ever agreed on anything.

But this was far from the first misstep for the Wakefield Civic League and its intrepid leader.

Prior to last April’s Town Election, the Civic League pressured a WCAT producer into accepting questions from the “public” to be asked during a televised selectmen candidates’ debate. Except, when each of the questions was randomly drawn by the debate moderator from the dozen submitted, all four just happened to be from Bronwyn Della-Volpe! (Awkward.)

selectmen_debate2016

Then last summer the president of WCL attended a meeting of the Board of Selectmen. A few days later, the Civic League posted a missive questioning why the selectmen did not read aloud routine correspondence listed on their agenda. Insinuations were made of a lack of transparency along with suggestions of hidden agendas.

Those who regularly attend meetings of municipal boards know that routine correspondence of an informational nature is typically acknowledged but seldom read aloud unless it has some bearing on a vote.

But to the Civic League, this was Lettergate.

It’s true that when people continually grouse and complain about town government they are often told that they should get involved and become part of the solution. In most cases though, the rock-throwers aren’t interested in doing any actual work.

Maybe Della-Volpe never imagined that the selectmen would actually appoint her, counting on an inevitable rejection to supply more fuel for her flamethrower. Was she taken by surprise when the selectmen called her bluff? Or did she simply realize that it would be easier to remain on the sidelines and cast stones?

Either way, there’s absolutely no reason for the selectmen – or anyone else for that matter – to take the Wakefield Civic League seriously ever again, if they ever did.

They offered its leader a chance to play a role in shaping the town’s future through its bylaws. In return, she led them to believe that she was building a bridge and then she struck a match and burned it to the ground.

There’s no longer any reason to indulge this little band of self-important scolds or give any credence to their charades.

The game’s over, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

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