SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen this week removed three members of the Planning Board because those members failed to meet town attendance requirements for board meetings.

Selectmen took the unanimous action Tuesday despite a request by board Chairman Steve Conley asking that additional absences be allowed.

Conley had suggested in a letter to selectmen that they approve an additional two absences per member beyond existing attendance requirements for Planning Board members. The current ordinance stipulates members attend at least 75% of board meetings in a given year.

Selectmen decided to reject Conley’s proposal, triggering the immediate dismissal of the three members.

Stephen Gould, Derek Chretien and Harvey Austin have all logged an absence rate of more than 25% from meetings since September 2021. Gould and Chretien have missed five of the 19 meetings held over the past year, or 26%, and Austin has missed 10 of those meetings, or 53%.

“Three to five absences are normally enough to accommodate the various needs of the members,” Conley wrote in his letter. “However, over the past two years we have experienced extra absences due to Covid or similar medical condition protocols.”


It appears no one has ever been dismissed from the seven-member Planning Board due to attendance, and selectman expressed some hesitancy Tuesday over doing so now, particularly during a pandemic.

“The ordinance could probably use a tuneup,” board Chairman Todd Smith said.

The attendance requirements for the Planning Board were established in 1991 and amended in 2012.

Although some interest was expressed in updating board membership requirements, selectmen decided the only “fair” thing to do was to follow the ordinance as written to ensure a quorum is met at meetings.

“If you want to work, work,” Selectman Harold Bigelow said. “If you want to be on a committee, be on a committee.”

Conley wrote in his letter that Gould was a “very important member” of the panel and was absent from meetings to “represent clients before the planning boards of other towns.” Conley also said Chretien has been dealing with “ongoing medical issues that have affected his attendance” over the past year.


Austin could not be reached for comment Thursday, and Conley did not account for his absences in his letter.

Even if selectmen had approved two extra absences for board members, which would have allowed Gould and Chretien to remain on the panel, Austin’s absences would have resulted in his dismissal.

“We’re not removing them,” Selectman Paul York said. “They removed themselves.”

Selectmen appointed Dan Luce, an alternate member of the Planning Board, to fill one of the three vacancies. It was unclear from the meeting whether dismissed members would be able to reapply for their positions and start fresh.

Town Manager Christine Almand said Thursday that town officials should be able to fill those remaining two seats “relatively soon,” and hopefully the dismissals will not stall the work of the Planning Board.

Almand encouraged those interested in serving on the board to contact her office for an application.

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