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Select Board to discuss Villamaino's open seat at next meeting

Date: 9/4/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to conduct its first substantive discussion on the proper course of action regarding the position on the board vacated by Jack Villamaino at its Sept. 4 meeting.

Villamaino submitted his resignation from the Board of Selectmen via email to Town Clerk Thomas Florence and Town Administrator Nick Breault on Aug. 22, effective at 4 p.m.

Selectman James Driscoll read the email into the record at the Board of Selectmen's meeting that evening and while he and Selectman Paul Federici addressed questions and concerns regarding the issue, both stated they were not prepared to discuss options for filling Villamaino's seat at that time.

"I think we were clear that we weren't going to get into detailed discussion about it at that meeting," Driscoll told Reminder Publications. "It is on our agenda for our next meeting. I don't think the timing [at the Aug. 22 meeting] was right to have a substantive discussion. Having just been informed at 4 [p.m.], how can you really have a substantive conversation about the issue?"

Driscoll explained that the Board of Selectmen have two simple options — host a special election or continue operating as a two-member board.

Residents also have the option of petitioning a special election, however, there are restrictions associated with that, Driscoll said.

"A resident could start a petition and the magic number is 200 signatures to force a special election," he said. "In that case, it cannot take place within 100 days of a regular election or within 45 days of the petition being submitted."

In the event of a special election, whether initiated by the Board of Selectmen or a citizen's petition, the winner would serve out the remainder of Villamaino's term, which ends in 2014.

Driscoll said he and Federici are not interested in rushing to a decision because "there isn't a switch we can turn on right away" to fix the problem.

Driscoll also stated that he has not felt a sense of urgency from the town to resolve the matter quickly.

"I don't think that there's a huge concern out there," Driscoll said. "I have not heard from a single constituent on the phone or in person who has raised concerns with this."

Villamaino, who is a candidate for State Representative for the Second Hampden District, has been subject to several media reports regarding his involvement in a voter registration fraud scheme, though he has not been officially named by any law enforcement of government agency.

He has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

District Attorney Mark Mastroianni has confirmed that multiple search warrants related to the case were executed on Aug. 16 and Brian St. Onge, clerk magistrate for Palmer District Court, the court of jurisdiction for East Longmeadow, confirmed on Aug. 28 that returns on those warrants were made to his office, but were not available to the public.

"The judge that signed the warrants made them returnable to Palmer District Court," he said. "However, everything has been impounded."

He went on to say that in addition to the returns on the warrants, the warrant applications and even the motions to impound those documents were impounded.

St. Onge further explained that the warrant applications were not originated through his office, which explains why representatives of his office initially told this newspaper that they could find no record of the warrants when they were requested on Aug. 17.