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Slate: Historical Commission dismissals due to MGM opposition

Date: 11/12/2015

SPRINGFIELD – Ralph Slate, chair of the Historical Commission, said that he was a “little surprised” to receive the letter Mayor Domenic Sarno thanking him for her service on the commission and telling him he wouldn’t be reappointed.

While Sarno didn’t say it, Slate believes his dismissal, as well as those of fellow commission members Robert McCarroll and Marjorie Guess, was because of their opposition to the initial plan for the historic YWCA building that is part of the MGM Springfield campus.

“That’s the exact reason,” he said. Later he added, “You can never prove this stuff obviously.”

James Leydon, Sarno’s director of communications, said the terms of the three commissioners had expired and the mayor believed this would be a good time to appoint new people to the positions. Leydon said the Historic Commission is not the only body for which Sarno will seek new applicants and the makeup of other boards and commissions will be refreshed.

Leydon denied the issues with MGM was a reason for not renewing the appointments of the three commissioners.

He added the three would remain on the commission until successors can be found and approved by the City Council.

Slate noted that Mayor Charlie Ryan had appointed him and McCarroll to the commission in 2004. Guess was already on the commission at that time.

He said the legal procedure would be to reappoint a commissioner after his or her three-year terms was concluded. Slate said none of the commissioners have ever been formally reappointed. By law they are allowed to continue on the commission until they are replaced.

Slate said his and McCarroll’s seats are “named.” The Springfield Preservation Trust must nominate McCarroll’s successor, while Slate’s must be named by Historic New England.

Although the commission currently has seven members, Slate said one of those, Thomas Belton, has been on medical leave for a year and has not been replaced. At times in the past, the commission has had as few as five members. It can have four alternative members but now only has one.

Slate, Guess and McCarroll voted to oppose the initial proposal regarding the YWCA building in March. A modified plan passed several weeks later when one of the three was absent.

The Historic Commission meets twice a month and its principal duty, Slate explained, is to oversee the city’s local historic districts and the redevelopment of historic property.