Andover Town Counsel Tom Urbelis went on the offensive at Monday’s select board meeting, reading a statement in response to recent criticism over decisions against the town, including a Massachusetts Land Court ruling that Planning Board and Conservation Commission decisions on a dispute with the owner of the Andover Country Club were “infected with erroneous advice.“
Urbelis suggested the land court’s decision was flawed and could be overturned on appeal. “The land court decision could be considered a case of first impression, because no appellate court in Massachusetts has mad such a similar decision,” he said.
After outlining the dispute and the ruling, Urbelis alluded to a letter by Andover resident Mike Meyers published in the Andover Townsman, which was also left as a reader comment on Andover News. Among other issues, Meyers claimed Urbelis “filed state charges against the teachers for speaking at the May 17, 2022 Special Town Meeting.” A hearing in that matter is scheduled for Wednesday.
“That statement is not true. Neither the town manager nor I filed any state charges against teachers for speaking at the town meeting,” Urbelis said. Urbelis also said an opinion from the labor counsel at special town meeting, which said special town meeting could not authorize stipend payments for workers covered in a collective bargaining agreement, was mischaracterized in the letter.
Attorneys for the Andover Education Association and the Andover School Committee will appear for a hearing before the Massachusetts Department of Labor Wednesday in a dispute over an article passed by special town meeting by a vote of 250-231 on May 17 that would have given educational assistants, food service workers and custodians represented by AEA a one-time, $800 stipend for working through the pandemic.
In its June 21 complaint with the Department of Labor, the school committee says that the union broke state law by bypassing the collective bargaining process when it sent a letter to its members asking them to support passage of the article, as well as letters to the school committee on May 27, after the article was passed. The union maintains those letters are protected speech under the First Amendment.