Select Board Accepts Donation for Fire and Police Departments Donor is Plaintiff Number 1 in a lawsuit against the town
By Theresa Knapp
The Select Board has accepted two $10,000 donations from a resident who is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the town.
The donor, Liz Reilly, is one of 10 plaintiffs who filed suit against Selectmen Brian Keyes and Louis Arcudi III (plus the Grafton & Upton Railroad Company, Jon Delli Priscoli, Michael Milanowski, and One Hundred Forty Realy Trust) for allegedly not following guidelines set at an October 2020 Special Town Meeting to purchase 155 acres of land at or near 364 West Street. That suit is still making its way through Worcester Superior Court.
In a letter to the Selectperson Louis Arcudi III and Town Administrator Diana Schindler on April 6, Reilly enclosed a donation of $10,000 for the Hopedale Fire Department and $10,000 for the Hopedale Police Department. She also enclosed $10,000 for the Hopedale Public Schools which the Select Board is not authorized to accept.
The letter said the donation was for “the town’s legal fees associated with the citizen’s [sic] lawsuit and is being directed towards the three departments you identified in one of your meetings as being directly shorted by the costs associated with the suit.”
In a previous meeting, Chairman of the Select Board Brian Keyes had said the town had overspent its legal budget, in part due to defending itself in that lawsuit, that there could be shortfalls in other departments.
The board asked that the letter be reworded so there was no written stipulation on the money.
Schindler said she spoke with Reilly who “wasn’t interested in submitting a new letter but did once again reiterate that what she intended was to replace $10,000 in operational expenses for the police and fire to offset any decrease to the budget due to the legal expenses from the lawsuit.”
Schindler said there would be no stipulations on the money which would be put in a gift account for future use.
At the board’s May 10 meeting, Keyes said he was hesitant to accept a donation from someone who is litigating against him directly, and he requested the matter be put on hold until after the town election and the town has a full three-member board.
Keyes also consulted with town counsel and reported to the board, “It looks like we will not have any ethics violation in accepting it.”
Selectperson Glenda Hazard, who rejoined the board after the May election, said the board should not question the donor’s motivation and accept the gift to help the two town departments.
“I don’t think that we explore the motivation of people who donate, in general, and we certainly need the funds,” Hazard said.
Arcudi agreed, saying “It’s a sizeable donation [and] I don’t want to question the motivation. Thank you very much.”