From terrific to terminated… Mike Coughlin, Cohasset TM

To the Editor

As my wife and I approach the March 13th  hearing on my fate,  perhaps the most important concern for the citizens of Cohasset is the ethical underpinnings of the town.

The cornerstone of the people’s confidence in their governmental institutions is their faith in officials adherence to the highest standards of ethical conduct.  Whether it is possible conflicts of interest surrounding the issuance of a water RFP or questionable efforts to influence the outcome of a regulatory proceeding,  a cloud has been cast over Cohasset. Regardless of my fate on March 13th,  for Cohasset to go forward the citizens must demand that questionable actions, conflicts and perceptions cease.

Cohasset officials must fully embrace the underlying principle of democracy that power lies with the people and not in the hands of a select few.  There has to be renewed respect for the Open Meeting Law so that government decisions are not made in the shadows or on the computer screens of that select few.  There needs to be acknowledgement that even the perception of a financial conflict undermines the integrity of any governmental decision and should be openly and immediately addressed.  There also needs to acceptance of the fact that a regulatory process designed to protect our environmental resources for all should not be tainted by the actions of a few.

As Town Manager I have tried to ask the tough questions on these issues.   My struggle is perhaps exemplified when one of the selectmen blurted out at a meeting that he didn’t care about the law.  This best sums up the ethical battleground upon which we now struggle.  As my over 5,000 e-mails over the past six months will help show, certain officials routinely demonstrated contempt for the Open Meeting Law,  warnings from the Town Attorney regarding various laws were often demeaned and requests for legal advice on how  to deal with ethical conflicts denied.

With respect to the BOS action on my employment,  both sides ethically entered into a contract which stated that from time to time the Selectmen  would meet with me to discuss goals and objectives and my progress towards achieving them.   They never did.   In a letter the editor just days before the executive session on February 7th to which I had no advance warning,  the chairman of the Board described me in the Cohasset Mariner as the “terrific new town manager.” Under any concept of ethics–  What changed so fast and so dramatically to change me from “terrific” to terminated?

As I have found throughout my entire career,  putting principle above special interests is always difficult but the viability of democracy in any small town depends on their public officials coming to grips with this so basic of concepts. To that end, since my suspension,  in the shops and restaurants and on the street corners,  countless citizens have expressed their support.   My wife and I are praying on March 13 that the will of a select few will be defeated by the will of the people of Cohasset.

Mike Coughlin
Town Manager

© Copyright 2012 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed