Affordable Housing Committee Chairman Resigns

Paul Cully on Sept. 10, 2013
Paul Cully on Sept. 10, 2013

Affordable Housing Committee chairman Paul Cully resigned earlier this month, sparking a debate over the town’s priorities on affordable housing as well as its policies on providing information to the public.

After what he said what was three years of efforts trying to reconcile figures in the town’s Community Preservation Act funding, Cully could no longer reconcile himself to serving on the board, stating that town employees such as Town Manager Jodi Ross became an obstacle toward fulfilling his duty.

“The worse it got, the more complicit I felt if I just kept my mouth shut,” he said. “I spent a lot of time and energy and burnt a lot of bridges, so I felt I would just be better off leaving.”

Although information was provided (see attached), Cully saw the information given as inadequate and requested more, citing that it was difficult to determine whether or not his committee was doing a good job with the information he had, making it difficult to get grant money.

“Many other nearby towns, such as Chelmsford, are more proactive, although I think we’ve done a good job despite resistance in town government,” he said.

On these claims, Ross says that the issue was not providing information, but a limited amount of staff resources, stating that Cully was welcome to search through records on his own, but this was not enough for him.

“We have provided (Cully) with several spreadsheets, we’ve sat with him, he’s sat with (town Finance Director) Dan O’Donnell and (Director of Land Use Management) Chris Kluchman several times with more documentation, but he wants to go check by check over the past ten years,” she said. “These resources have been audited by external accountants and we have proof that it is correct, but he wanted a different level of proof.”

Over time, Ross said that the information provided satisfied the committee as a whole, but not Cully.

The two clashed over a removed sentence from a recent Affordable Housing Committee summary from a yearly town report, which Cully claims is censorship and Ross claims was inappropriate and placed without authorization of the committee.

In addition to frustration over information, Cully also was frustrated with the town’s views over affordable housing, which grew from “virtually zero” when the committee was founded over ten years ago to approximately seven percent now.

Perhaps what was the final straw for Cully was the difficulty last fall regarding placing affordable housing on the Edwards Parcel, a piece of land on Tyngsboro Road used as conservation land.

A citizen’s petition was brought forth to keep the parcel as conservation land, preventing efforts to build affordable housing on a small portion of the parcel.

“My mind was made up there at that special town meeting,” he said. “That the town wouldn’t help us, it really brought home the level of opposition.

The town is looking for a replacement to fill Cully’s vacant seat, interested residents can fill out a form on the town website.


Randy Winslow January 24, 2014 at 07:42 PM
http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_24932347/westford-housing-panel-chairman-resigns-says-he-was?IADID=Search-www.lowellsun.com-www.lowellsun.com There seems to be more to the story. Read above.
Steven Sadowski January 24, 2014 at 08:28 PM
I serve with Paul on the TPSC. The guy is as sharp as a tack. I would not underestimate his instincts or posits. I wish him the best of luck in the future and hope I can at least continue to serve with him on the TPSC.
Sam January 24, 2014 at 09:46 PM
This sounds like a personality conflict more than anything, but if I had to deal with JR and the BOS on a consistent basis I can't blame him. If people really paid attention on how these CPA funds are spent they wouldn't be pleased. The excuse of manpower by JR is laughable. How about her assistant town manager gathering the documents? He dosn't have time? Please....
Westford Insider January 25, 2014 at 05:31 AM
Westfordite January 25, 2014 at 07:27 AM
Interesting that there were plenty of man hours to burn to try to get a parking lot shoved into a neighborhood for the BFRT but not enough man hours for affordable housing issues... Perhaps it's priorities and not personalities that are the problem.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 09:58 AM
The BOS is JR's boss and basically tell her what to do. The BOS needs to all be sent packing. One was removed last election (it should have been two). There are two more up for re-election this time. Let's send them home. Not sure on the new guy Hazleton but I don't see much of a change.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 04:09 PM
The fact is---and this hurts me to say because I fall into this category as a town committee member too--but the govt. has grown obscenely complicated and complex. When citizen govt. was conceived it was done at a time when a handshake could seal a land deal. Now, you can't construct a shed w/o a permit, so if someone sits on a town committee, unless you are an expert in that committee's field, you will ned an expert in govt. to help you make good decisions. The TPSC is lucky to have the asst. mgr at al of our meetings, but w/o his guidance, we would be making all kinds of errors since we deal in land court, parcels, real estate, etc. Not every committee is so lucky, and I would assume not everyone on the FitCom is an accountant, not everyone on the School Committee is an educator, and not everyone on the planning board isa contractor/architect, so you have people (well intentioned) who have no clue how to undertake the positions their committee oversees. The BoS is no different. The govt. is so complex that I doubt any person has all the expertise necessary in all fields to be able to vote accurately in all the myriad issues that come before it. So they lean heavily on JR for guidance juts like you lean on your real estate agent, dentist or electrician to help you make the best decision. Ultimately you make the call, but the experts are there to guide you. So while the BoS is JR's boss, she is the expert in govt. which is why she earns triple figures and the BoS volunteer.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 04:23 PM
The fact that she is an "expert" does not make her a good manager. The asst manager position is a waste of money.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 05:15 PM
I will add that waste mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg in Westford. Explain to me how the expert and BOS have been crying about the fiscal sky falling for years and no budget cuts of any meaning have come through. Seems to me to be a simple solution. No money make cuts. School Dept=cuts, Highway Dept=cuts, Town Hall=cuts. and so on and so on. All we see are budget increases every year. I think most volunteers can even make sense of that. It's called common sense. If services suffer a bit so be it.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 05:39 PM
Mmmm, no. I see where you're getting at but the govt. is extremely complex, trust me. Why don't you try running for a spot and you'll see what I mean. Govt. is so slow and cumbersome. There are so many contracts, laws, mandates, chapters, this and that...it's not as easy as you think. We (volunteers) need those who have degrees in govt./finance and management. This is why I am always fighting for privatization because the system has evolved beyond the gentry.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 06:00 PM
It may have layers, but trust me I know exactly how it works and what is involved. To do what I say takes leadership and guts that is it. Problem solved.
Westford Insider January 25, 2014 at 06:26 PM
#toomanysecrets ...priceless
Sam January 25, 2014 at 06:44 PM
If you are saying there are secrets then you know what they are. Lay it on us. Simply saquaking about secrets brings nothing to the table.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 06:59 PM
Sam: I feel I am a "leader." I have a vision and a depth of the issues. You may disagree with my positions and findings, but you can't deny I have a vision and have studied the issues. But there is more than this required to be effective in govt. You need to have an expertise in negotiating the labyrinth of govt. You would never get a divorce on your own right? Even if you were very smart and knew what you knew, you would go out and hire an attorney, right? Well, its' the same thing in local govt. You have very smart people sitting on committees. Many of these people have Phd's. But these same people have to deal with Chapter (add # here) or some other mandate. Everything's written in legalese, so it's not as simple as being a strong leader. You need leadership, "yes," but you also need the experts who can guide you through the maze.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 07:12 PM
That's bull. The unbelievable maze you talk of is there to confuse only. Cutting budgets to match income is easy and you know it.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 07:23 PM
I would love to think that it's that easy, but i can tell you, as someone who is there that it is so complex, that even as someone whose budget is a tight as mosquito's butt, the state dictates a lot of what we as a town spends. We have been run by statists for so long, that they have written into code the budget we rubber stamp at town meeting every year. We, as a town, have very very little we get to decide. This is why I am so pro-privistization.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 07:29 PM
You know what excuses are like right? The state dictates much but we have choices and we constantly refuse to make ones that reduce. You and I know it. Sounds like ole SS is a statist himself. So you basically go for the ride and then blab online about you "really" believe?
Sam January 25, 2014 at 07:31 PM
I also appreciate your service and the service of all other volunteers. It is a thankless job. It doesn't mean I agree with what they all do.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 08:26 PM
If you were on our committee you would not write that. I've tried so much to try and reduce waste and the umbilical cord to the state. But the laws and statutes are already written, so even if you are an anarchist, there is very little you can do until the people in MA stop voting for statists and start voting for Libertarians. Plus, even if you were trying to be careful, everytime yo try and be careful to save the town from a possible lawsuit, you have to involve town counsel at $100/he. It's a lose-lose.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 08:53 PM
Uh huh. Throw the hands up and just roll with the out of control spending. I've been on committees and come from a family whose lives revolved around town service. You are a libertarian and apparently make no difference.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 09:31 PM
I'm making a difference, but it's a "drop in the bucket" kind of difference. Scoff all you want, but this state is run by statists. So I find it funny you laugh at my Libertarianism, yet it's the lack of said Libertarianism that has gotten us to his precipice. Who's the last Libertarian you voted for? You're complicit.
Sam January 25, 2014 at 09:50 PM
You said it yourself, you are along for the ride. I find it funny that your only answer is vote for a Libertarian. As far as town govt goes we can make a difference if people had backbones. They simply do not. If you should know I was a Ron Paul fan but as usual with a so called Libertarian (yet republican) they take it to the whacko level.
Steven Sadowski January 25, 2014 at 09:59 PM
Sam: I am the only Libertarian serving you in a town capacity. I have saved you $. That is not a boast, that is a fact. I have backbone, and i can tell you, I've thrown down in many a meeting when it comes to our Constitutional rights. But, I'm the sole Libertarian. So what can I do? I can vote nay, or yay, but if the committee outvotes me, the motion passes. I am not just going along for the ride, but the chess set is in motion. Long time coming, buckle up.
Sam January 26, 2014 at 10:34 AM
How about common sense? How many officials have that?
Steven Sadowski January 26, 2014 at 10:52 AM
That's a rather broad question, don't you think? What I can tell you is that there aren't any evil villains twirling their handlebar mustaches and howling, "Bwu hahahah" while the train comes to run over the damsel tied up on the railroad tracks. These officials are your neighbors, your fellow Westford residents and they volunteer because without volunteers, you and m, and the town would not have a functioning govt. But the govt. has grown beyond common sense. I know you don't believe that, but it's true. Just like there used to be a day when you could change the oil, and fix your own car, now you need a degree in computer programming and you run the risk of voiding your warranty. Same with govt. Very few people have the expertise to be on committee solo. Which is why I am constantly trying to put the running of the town in free market hands. The more we keep the govt. in govt. control, the worse things will get.
Sam January 26, 2014 at 11:04 AM
I have always said that we need these volunteers but I disagree on the common sense. These people are our neighbors, all of whom have a certain interest in how things go. For instance their neighbor and good friends work for the school system. Instead of reducing a bloated budget during a decrease in student attendance I will vote to protect my friends positions. Not common sense but loyalty to a friend. Instead of saying no to use of CPA funds to further develop a private business I vote yes because I have friends that are part of that business. I will allow certain builders in town to skate through a process while others a sent through the ringer. No difference in procedure or rule of law, but simply a like or dislike. I will allow certain zoning laws to be bent because my friends are involved. These things happen every day. It's human nature but common sense and right and wrong can go a long way.
Westford Insider January 26, 2014 at 11:05 AM
How about leaders like the TM Ross and the SC Chair Keele just exorcize some additional honestly and transparency in what they do and say? Misthruth, Mistrusts, halftruths, you get it.. They cry the sky is falling to suit their agenda but the sky never falls quite far from it more and more money is spent...Deceptive at best but the Westford townfolk flock sees no evil, hears no evil, sees no evil so the wool over the eye trick works time and time again. #Questionauthority
Vincent DiRico January 26, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Sam January 26, 2014 at 11:45 AM
WI, if this true then you have smashed SS's theory on there are no Snidely Whiplashes out there. What say you SS.
Steven Sadowski January 26, 2014 at 04:36 PM
What I say is two things: you are proving my point that power corrupts and absolute power..., so the solution is not to try and find benevolent leadership, but instead take the power away from govt. I am always arguing for privatization and mocked for it to boot, but there are no angels willing and able to step and run the town properly. Sam, I loved your paragraph above. I wholeheartedly agree. Best thing you've ever written on the Patch. And again, I feel this buoys my point. As for Snidely Whiplashes (another great one by you Sam---you're on a roll!) I don't think there are evil people in local govt. I disagree with Elizabeth Warren (not local I know) but I don't think she's evil. I think she thinks she's really trying to make the country better. I completely disagree with her methods, but I don't doubt her patriotism. It's the same locally. There are people in Westford who want it to be Brookline, not because they are evil but because they believe it will be good for everyone if Westford was Brookline. We can disagree with their methods and theories, but they are trying to make the town better in their eyes. What needs to happen is for people who disagree to step up and serve. Any takers?


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