HOLDEN, Mass. — Holden residents turned out to the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday to weigh in on Selectman Mark Ferguson's recent protest and criticism of the school district — a complaint prompted by the district's asking the town to pay $2,300 for a complete copy of its budget documents.
At a board meeting in November, before School Committee Chair Duncan Leith delivered his regular update on the schools, Ferguson made an impassioned speech about the Wachusett Regional School District's failure to provide a copy of the budget, turned his chair backward and left the meeting in protest.
Leith left the lectern following the remarks, saying he did not need to be treated that way.
During a period for citizens to address the board Monday night, Hal Lane said the actions were "by far the worst attack I had ever seen by an elected official in this town at a scheduled meeting."
"It was even more disturbing because the uncalled for and arrogant attack was on an elected official of this town who was appearing at the meeting on the invitation of the board," Lane said.
Lane said the board should use its right to censure members who "resort to antics not consistent with the charter of the town."
In contrast, resident Ed Meyer applauded Ferguson's actions "for having the guts to walk out on Duncan Leith and his continued refusal to provide the towns with a copy of the seriously flawed budget."
Meyer instead pushed for the Wachusett Regional School Committee chairman and other senior members of the committee to resign.
Addressing the board from the lectern, Ferguson was unapologetic about his earlier protest.
"For others who want to apologize, you can apologize for the taxpayers," he said. "Those are the people that should be apologized to, for the lack of financial oversight by the Wachusett Regional School District."
Ferguson stressed that the board still does not have a copy of the requested budget documents, and that beyond a 12-page version online, it is not available to the public.
"I would like to get the entire budget, so we can see line by line where our money is going," he said.
Selectman Anthony Renzoni said he had also had the same problem, finding only the vague 12-page budget online rather than the more than 7,000 pages of Municipal Information System documents that account for every purchase.
The Board of Selectmen endorsed a further request for an electronic copy of the complete documents at no charge from the school district. The district has more summary financial information available at its budget website.