Should a Mistake Affect the Sherman Election?

Citizen News, Letter to Editor, October 21, 2015.

To the Editor:

At the July 2014 town meeting, Selectman Cope
asked the people of Sherman to vote on whether the
town should purchase an $18,798 Toro Sand Pro
tractor for the purpose of grooming the town’s
athletic fields. He stood and watched as those of us
in attendance discussed the pros and cons of whether
the town needed the machinery. When the vote was
taken that evening, it became clear that the people of
Sherman did not see a need for this piece of
equipment. The catch? The entire exercise was a
charade on the part of Selectman Cope. He had
unilaterally made the decision to buy that equipment
nine weeks before. The Sand Pro had been
purchased (without requesting competitive bids as
required), was already being used by the Public
Works department and was being kept hidden in a
town garage. None of that was mentioned by Mr.
Cope to the attendees of that town meeting.
In light of the vote, a “mea culpa” letter appeared
in this newspaper, in which Mr. Cope claimed that
he had misunderstood the rules of the budget and
had mistakenly bought the Sand Pro. He hastily
arranged a return of the now-used machinery. At
the subsequent board of selectmen meeting on
August 28th, the obvious question was posed: Why
did you not explain your mistake at the town
meeting in July and let the town vote on whether to
keep the already-purchased Sand Pro? Mr. Cope’s
response was that he felt that by revealing that the
town already, in fact, owned the Sand Pro, he would
somehow sway the ensuing vote. Strange behavior
for an elected official who touts his honesty and

But let’s accept it for a moment. Once
the vote was decided, however, and there was no
chance of anyone being swayed, what was the
reason for not revealing this “mistake” to the dozens
of townspeople in attendance that night?
In light of his actions, the inescapable answer is
that Mr. Cope hoped to avoid taking responsibility
for his egregious error. And if we had voted “yes” to
purchase the equipment that evening, the people of
this town would never have heard about this breach
of our trust. Is that acceptable behavior from our
First Selectman? Mr. Cope has an absolute
responsibility to share all of the facts with the
citizens of this town – including the ones that are
inconvenient and embarrassing to him.

As Sherman voters head to the polls on November
3rd, the “Sand Pro scandal” must be considered.
Accidentally purchasing an $18,000-plus piece of
equipment with taxpayer dollars is quite a mistake.
Not understanding how the budget works after
several years on the job is a failure that should give
the town pause. But actively concealing information
from the people who elected him as their first
selectman is unforgivable.

Ben Bilbrough,