CHELSEA — On first the day of Carole Swan’s trial, some residents said they would like to see her and her husband punished, while others said they’re withholding judgment until a jury reaches a verdict.

Swan, who is charged with 10 counts of defrauding the federal government, went on trial today in U.S. District Court.

Beatrice Campbellton, 97, said she has lived in Chelsea her whole life and would like to see Carole Swan punished.

“If she’s got any money or anything, I think the town should have it to replace what was taken,” she said.

Esther Shaw, 88, is sympathetic toward Carole and Marshall Swan. She said she has always had good relationships with both of them.

“I hope it all passes over,” Shaw said. “I don’t like to see these things happen to people.”

She said she’s never seen evidence of the Swans’ alleged wrongdoing herself, and that newspaper articles about the situation have convicted the couple of the crimes.

“If it is true, then we all have to face the truth,” Shaw said.

Jim Brown, a 79-year-old resident, is also sympathetic toward the Swans. He said he has remained friends with them.

“Either way, no matter how it washes out, they are my friends,” Brown said. “I do not judge. I want the courts to judge.”

Brown said derogatory comments about the couple have been spread by word of mouth, and by newspapers and online. He said he has heard “a lot of nastiness” about them in town.

“I want justice to be served and let the chips fall where they may,” Brown said.

News of Carole Swan’s defense that her actions were caused by domestic abuse by her husband surprised Brown.

“If it’s true, it amazes me,” Brown said. “But here again. I don’t know. I didn’t see it.”

Harvey Mason, 79, said he’s lived in Chelsea since 1958 and thinks things have improved in the town since the ordeal.

“They’ve got some more money,” he said. “Maybe they’ll fix the roads. It’s always been a good town.”

Selectman Michael Pushard declined to talk about specifics of what happened because he’s a potential witness, but he did say the town has improved since Swan left the select board.

“It’s definitely improved, without a doubt,” he said, “but unfortunately, it’s going to be some time before we turn this town around and get it back financially where it should and needs to be.”

In addition to the fraud charges, Swan has been charged in state court with trying to extort money from a contractor in return for giving him town work. Those accusations will be heard later.

Pushard said the town needs to increase its surplus fund balance, which had been depleted in the last several years, as well as find ways to ease the tax burden.

“It’s awful hard for us to ask the residents, ‘Let’s put some money aside,’ when we can’t afford it,” he said.

Pushard, elected in 2010, served as the only active member of the board for almost two months after Swan was arrested.

Swan’s bail conditions kept her from conducting town business, and the town had not yet elected a replacement for another selectwoman who resigned.

Swan’s lawyer disputed that Pushard could call a special town meeting to fill the vacancy as the only selectman.

A newly adopted town charter will help the town deal with similar situations by giving guidelines of what is expected of town officials.

Residents voted 364–45 to adopt a town charter in the June municipal election.

The charter allows one selectman to conduct necessary business like authorizing payments of heating bills and calling a special town meeting to fill vacant seats.

The charter also allows the town to recall an elected official and outlines what constitutes a conflict of interest.

It forces any town official or municipal officer who hides the conflict or willfully violates the guidelines to forfeit the position.

Pushard said transparency of town government has improved since Swan’s departure, but Brown, a longtime resident of Chelsea, disagrees.

He said it’s difficult for him to know what’s going on in the town because he doesn’t use computers.

“As it is right now, there’s no transparency, unless you’re getting on a computer,” Brown said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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