Editorials published by the Goffstown Residents
Association are written by various members and
contributing non-members of the GRA.

Gross defies Board, state law
Freshman selectman still practicing ‘back-room politics’
November 23, 2007

     Selectman Scott Gross, in an unprecedented act of arrogance and defiance, recently defied a decision made by the Board of Selectmen, then, on his own, instructed town employees to ignore that decision and recommended a different course of action which would be in direct violation of state law.


     Earlier this year on June 25th, Police Chief Michael French came before selectmen to discuss the issue of crosswalks in Goffstown Village.  French told selectmen that cars have been parking too close to those crosswalks and that the potential existed for serious injury.  He also pointed out that state law requires cars to park no closer that twenty feet from any crosswalk.  He then provided the Board with photos taken in front of Town Hall showing cars parked right up to the crosswalk markings. 

     French asked selectmen to consider allowing DPW to paint a safety zone on either side of the crosswalks to prevent cars from parking within the twenty-foot buffer zone in compliance with state law.  

     As Chief French had made clear to the Board, the Town would be risking serious injury to pedestrians and open itself to potential liability should they fail to take action and someone actually became injured.  We agree.

     Selectmen also understood that although businesses in the village would be inconvenienced by the loss of some parking spaces, the issue of public safety and the risk of liability had to come first.  Again, a no-brainer. 

Selectmen Act

     Selectmen were also shown a map of the areas that would be affected.  After discussions with DPW Director Carl Quiram, selectmen decided to proceed. The painters were to complete the painting and striping of the Henry Bridge Road project, then move forward with the painting of the safety zones in the Village District.  Selectmen also notified village businesses of that forthcoming safety zone.

     On July 2nd, by a unanimous vote of 5-0, the Board of Selectmen passed a motion to go forward with painting of the safety/no parking zones at all Village District crosswalks in accordance with state law and Chief French’s recommendations. That motion, seconded by selectman Phil D’Avanza, was made by Gross himself.

     The Board’s decision, however, ultimately meant nothing to Mr. Gross.

Gross ‘overrules’ Board decision

     Soon after the painting crews had completed their work in Grasmere, Gross happened to be walking out of Town Hall and noticed DPW workers marking the street in preparation for the painting of the safety zone. After surveying the areas that would encompass that zone, Gross, on his own, decided too many parking spaces would be lost, and instructed workers not to paint the safety zone.

     At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Gross was asked to explain his blatant disregard for the Board’s previous decision.  His answers were amusing, to say the least.

     We invite readers to decide for themselves as to whether or not Gross’ actions were defensible.  What follows are a few excerpts
taken directly from Monday's recorded Board of Selectmen meeting, after Chairman John Caprio asked Gross to explain his actions.

     His explanation (and feeble excuses) begin... 

GROSS: “There…I think if we were to proceed with this as it was recommended, it would be a big blow to parking on Main Street.  I’m talking a huge blow to parking on Main Street.”

NICK CAMPASANO: “I thought it was already approved.  This Board already…”

GROSS: “Right. And I think what happened was, uh, DPW marked out with, um, spray paint where the parking spaces would go, and when you look at that, and I did personally, um, it, I mean, it reduces the parking, it, I can’t tell you.  I mean, a lot of parking spaces are getting eliminated.  And I’m not so sure that’s - would be in the best economic interests of our community.  Now I know…”

CAMPASANO: “And again I’ll say it: I thought this Board voted for that.”

GROSS: “Right.  And maybe this Board needs to reconsider that.  Or at least talk about it.”

     Bewildered by Gross’s attempts to rationalize his actions, Campasano refused to relent:

CAMPASANO: “Does it differ from the map that we saw?”

GROSS: “Maybe…I don’t know if it differs per se, Nick, but I do think that it’s one thing when look at a map, and it’s another thing when you look at it, you know, in real, you know, and it’s like ‘Wow.  Holy cow.’”

CAMPASANO: “I’m going to go back to the position that I took when we first talked about this. We had the Police Chief who came in here, who told us that people are parking too close to the crosswalks, and they’re violating state law and people can get hit – that there was a safety issue.  It was brought to our attention like that.  And that was the context it was framed in.  So we’re weighing…what position does that put us in if we say ‘Ok, let’s not paint them, and don’t worry about it’, and someone does get hit?”

GROSS: “I think there’s also one could argue that there’s dangerous intersections that we all have…”

     If that last statement by Gross is any indication of his thought process, the Board of Selectmen is in real trouble. Read on…

CAMPASANO: “We didn’t come up with this ourselves.”

GROSS: “Right.  Oh, I know we didn’t.  And I’m saying that…”

CAMPASANO: “It was brought to our attention by the Chief of Police.”

     We felt both amused and, frankly, embarrassed watching Gross squirm under this questioning.  It was clear that Gross was completely unprepared for the reaction of the remaining Board members to his complete disregard for their previous decision.

     Worse, Gross continued trying to defend his actions, making his testimony even more ridiculous as he went on…

CAMPASANO: “We were told that when the painters came in to do the Henry Bridge roundabout, they would paint these markings.  The painters came in, did the Henry Bridge roundabout, but somewhere, someone decided not to do what this Board voted to do.”

GROSS: “Right, because someone was smart enough to say, “Wow, this is really bad, I think, and I think this Board, that they would probably want to take a look at this to see if they really want to do what they say they want to do.  And you know what?  I’m OK with that, because I think that’s someone who’s using their head, um, and they brought it, I mean I know it was brought it to my attention, I took a look at it, um…”

     Smart enough?  Smart enough???  If Gross were as smart as he was boasting he was, he’d have never believed this new Board would let him get away with what he did, as most likely, previous boards would have. 

     More of the meeting transcript…

CAMPASANO: “I differ with you.”

CAPRIO: “I guess the question is: Why wasn’t it brought to the Board’s attention since it was a Board decision?”

CAMPASANO: “Yes, because the next time someone may on their own decide, ‘Well I think it’s a better idea if we do something different.’”

GROSS: “The only, the only thing that I would say is that yes, I mean, bringing it back to the Board is the key element there, but, I mean I only knew about this because I was at Town Hall and I walked across the street and I saw them looking at it, you know, so I knew about it.  So then shame on me, maybe, for not bringing it to the Board, but...”

     Shame on him is right.  As both Caprio and Campasano point out below, Gross’ actions have implications that go far beyond those of the safety zone painting issue...

CAPRIO: “I guess I’m, personally I’m, and I think some of the other members are, concerned that somebody made an arbitrary decision that goes contrary to a direct decision of this Board, and I don’t, I just don’t understand that at all.”

CAMPASANO: “And I would add that unless a decision is unanimous, and many times when there’s differing opinions it’s not unanimous, what’s to prevent in the future any dissenting member from going out and delaying things so that we can take a second look at something, or…I mean it goes against, I think, the whole process of this Board.”

     During the discussions, Gross supported the notion that not only was a crosswalk safety zone of twenty-feet too much, but in his opinion, might instead be reduced to fifteen, or even ten feet, or perhaps not painted at all.  To this suggestion, selectman Vivian Blondeau responded:

BLONDEAU: “My concern is that, and I don’t know, but if the state law and the Police Chief came in and says twenty feet from the crosswalk, what are we doing saying ten feet?  I mean where, are we law abiding or are we…I question this.”

     Gross’ answer was his most confusing yet.

GROSS: “The, it’s the police department’s job to, uh, enforce laws.  It is the, it’s also illegal, by the way, to go 35 miles an hour in a 30, and it’s also illegal to smoke on school grounds and in some buildings, and there’s a lot of things that are not legal by law.”

     “Not legal by law,” he said.  Hmmm...thank God Mr. Gross is not the town attorney.

The Stench of the Past

     Eventually, Gross made a motion to reconsider the Board’s previous vote and to hold a public hearing on the painting of the crosswalk safety zone.  The Board ultimately voted 2-2-1 (Campasano NO, Caprio NO, Blondeau YES, Gross YES, D’Avanza abstained for lack of sufficient information) not to reconsider their previous decision.  Though we are also very disappointed in Ms. Blondeau's vote, the Board’s original decision to paint the safety zone, notwithstanding Gross’ attempts to circumvent that decision, stood - just as it should have.

     In our view, Gross’ actions smack of the back room politics Goffstown suffered for years at the hands of the recently-toppled regime of the Good Ol’ Boys network of the past.  It is apparent, however, that Gross, who many believe was a member-in-good-standing of that network for years, either hasn’t abandoned its questionable practices or wishes to revive them.

     In either case, Gross’ actions were inexcusable and impeachable.  Unfortunately, though, they are not surprising. 

     In our opinion, Chairman Caprio summed up Gross’ actions best when, at the end of the discussion, he said, “The board has made a decision and it should be carried out.  Otherwise, let’s not even bother having any votes, because apparently our vote doesn’t mean anything.”

     That is certainly true when it comes to "Mr. Good Ol’ Boy", Scott Gross. 



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