Mashpee Commons developer Arnold B. (Buff) Chace Jr., in a letter dated November 10, called for the Town of Mashpee to begin an internal investigation of Mashpee Planning Board member Mary E. Waygan.
The letter from Mr. Chace, which was also signed by his daughter, Sarah Chace, references allegations against Ms. Waygan made by resident Meredith L.M. Kilpatrick earlier this month. The letter is addressed to town manager Rodney C. Collins, the chairman of the planning board and the chairwoman of the select board.
During a planning board meeting on November 3, Ms. Kilpatrick made sweeping allegations against Ms. Waygan that she said she submitted to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. She alleged that Ms. Waygan met with this newspaper, wrote letters to the editor submitted under others’ names, conducted tours of Mashpee Commons with members of the public, held anonymous Zoom meetings and manipulated a developer’s maps and drawings, then redistributed the altered materials to citizens groups.
“We realize the claims by Ms. Kilpatrick have yet to be vetted,” Mr. Chace said in the letter. “However, if Ms. Kilpatrick’s allegations are found to be true, then in our opinion it raises questions about whether Ms. Waygan participated in a misinformation campaign about Mashpee Commons and whether that contributed to the recent dissolution of the three-party development agreement between the town of Mashpee, the Cape Cod Commission and the Mashpee Commons.”
Just two days before allegations were brought forth, the select board voted unanimously to withdraw from a three-party development agreement, the process through which the Commons had proposed negotiating a large-scale expansion of its mixed-use development.
“The allegations are deeply concerning to us, as many of them relate to our development at Mashpee Commons,” Mr. Chace said. “In response to these allegations, the town should also proceed with its own internal investigation and report the results either to the affected stakeholders or to the public.”
Reached by phone, Mr. Collins said, “Although I will not speak to this particular matter, I will say, generally speaking, people need to understand that facts must be established before any presumptions are made.”
Planning board chairman John Fulone said said at the board’s meeting on November 17 that he had “received many comments and concerns about the allegations” and has “been asked specifically about how we plan to address the allegations.”
“I’ve talked separately with the town manager and town counsel. Upon their advice, we’re going to closely follow the Attorney General’s office and state ethics commission as they begin their investigations,” Mr. Fulone said. “That will inform any course of action, if there is a course of action. Until then, I ask that we please focus on the important work of updating our local comprehensive plan.”
A public information officer for the ethics commission would neither confirm nor deny that the commission was in receipt of the complaint from Ms. Kilpatrick or whether an investigation was underway, citing confidentiality laws.
During public comment at the November 17 meeting, Mashpee resident Arden Russell took Mr. Fulone to task for allowing Ms. Kilpatrick to read the allegations against Ms. Waygan into the record at the meeting earlier in the month. At that earlier meeting, Ms. Waygan and planning board member Dennis Balzarini left the room in protest while Ms. Kilpatrick spent more than five minutes reading the allegations aloud.
Ms. Russell cited rules established by Mr. Fulone earlier in the year about public comment. The rules included a two-minute limit on comments and that said comments should be courteous, kind and relevant to the meeting.
“It was so disturbing and so upsetting to witness the hypocrisy of your actions at the last planning board meeting,” Ms. Russell said. “It now appears your rules are only applied to some and not to others.”
Also during public comment, Mashpee resident B. Lynne Barbee defended Ms. Waygan as “a long-term leader on the planning board” who brings “extraordinary expertise to its deliberations.”
“Mary’s years of experience, institutional memory and knowledge of legal and procedural processes have proved invaluable to the board,” Ms. Barbee said. “Mary is also an exemplary citizen, encouraging residents to attend meetings, voice their concerns and volunteer for town committees.”
Ms. Barbee continued, “I want to express my dismay at the slanderous comments that were made about me and others at the previous planning board meeting. I am the author of any letter I send to the press.”
A variety of opinions were expressed in comments submitted in writing to the planning board.
Mashpee resident Anne Malone said, “Giving the complainant the floor, without limitation or time or scope, to rehearse her unsubstantiated personal grievances and contrived list of ‘offenses’ was incredibly bad practice and shabby treatment of a fellow board member.”
Mashpee resident Mary LeClair said, “The planning board has a responsibility to town constituents to be a fair, open and impartial board.”
“The allegations that have come before us have tarnished its reputation, and now it is time for us to restore that trust by opening an investigation into allegations that were voiced.”
Residents Barry and Jewel Blake said, “Mashpee residents were appalled at the petty, unsubstantiated details of the personal attack shared at the meeting of the planning board on November 3.”
“We feel perhaps the board should publicly reiterate the plea to end the divisiveness, as the select board did,” Mr. and Ms. Blake said. “While the drama of the back stories are being researched, we urge you to focus on the future and let us continue to be proud that we are Mashpee residents. We do not wish to continue this public soap opera any longer.”