Breaking a Bad Habit

By: Philippe Thibault

Did you ever take a Myers Briggs Personality Test? I have been intrigued by the sixteen personality types and the associations of one type working with another. It would be amusing to have the Dracut Board of Selectmen fill out the survey and see what dynamics are at work between the members. There is also a portion of the test that relates to how persons work in relaxed situations and under stress.

While most people believe they have similar reactions in both instances, most people diverge greatly. I believe this portion of the exam would find that the Dracut Board of Selectmen Chair Alison Genest would be consistently inconsistent. Consistency is derived from habit and Alison Genest has many bad habits.

Genest’s first test came shortly after being elected to office. The Town of Dracut has three appointments to the Dracut Access Board of Directors, one of which is by the Board of Selectmen. The Selectmen appointed position became vacant with the resignation of that Director. The procedure to make appointments by the Town require posting the position for a 10-day period, interview all potential applicants and then appoint.

These procedures are actually “habits” the Town institute to promote consistency. Genest’s husband was appointed less than 48 hours after the resignation. It was never posted. Selectman DiRocco thought that a social media post on someone’s personal Facebook page should suffice as adequate notification to the public of the position’s availability. The seconding of your spouse’s nomination let alone voting on the appointment would be the start of Genest’s bad habit of ignoring procedure and ethics.

A campaign issue for Genest in her first race was Beaver Brook Farm and the Conservation Commission. Dracut undertook work to construct a wood bridge over Beaver Brook to connect the Farm and the School complex. Prior to her election, Genest was contacted as an abutter to the project with her residence less than three hundred feet from the property.

When elected she formed the Beaver Brook Ad Hoc Committee. Genest took the Chair position as a nice plum, leaving some wondering how this was ethical. Genest claims to have spoken to the Massachusetts Ethics Commission. I will only reflect on the words of Benjamin Franklin that “half the truth is often a great lie.”

She supplied the Town Clerk a Disclosure Form where she claims not to be an abutter; even when the Dracut Conservation Commission, under Massachusetts General Law, considers her an abutter. Genest’s bad habit of ignoring facts and ethics again.

Setting goals has always been a way for breaking bad habits. The Selectmen have been setting goals for some time, typically sharing them in open session. An effective communication practice and a way fostering camaraderie among members. Genest’s habits are a stubborn thing though, as Chair of the Board of Selectmen, she required all goals be sent to her directly.

She them culled through the goals she wanted and discarded those she did not. The adoption of a Code of Conduct was a goal by two Selectman, but Genest would not be deterred by paper handcuffs. The code when brought up in open session was shot down. Another goal was that of no new taxes and fees. Genest did not need time to sleep on a fee to pick up mattresses with the Town’s rubbish collection. Her answer was: Town Manager, Ann Vandal, needed the money and she did not want to pay for someone’s expense. She now supports an ala carte government. If you do not drive at night, you will not have to pay for streetlights?

An appointment for the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee was made recently by the Selectmen after a considerable amount of turmoil also caused by a few Selectmen, Genest included. The procedures called for the Selectmen making an appointment with the recommendations of the Zoning Bylaw Committee. Well, the Zoning Bylaw Committee fulfilled their duties and made a unanimous recommendation to the Selectman for their choice of applicants, but Genest has her bad habits to satisfy.

“This is our appointment” she pontificated as she and her two cohorts twisted facts and cast aspersions to make a candidate look undesirable. In violation of Selectmen procedures, she did not even arrange for an interview. That would only expose her charade.

The bad habits of ignoring procedures and ethics just keep piling up like a train wreck: suspending Selectman rules in session required by a supermajority vote is done by simple majority; nomination residency requirements discarded to allow out of town nominations; increased committee membership to permit a friend’s appointment without charter change; requirement of resumes to be included with applications to volunteer on Selectmen appointed boards without consensus of the Board of Selectmen; she regularly weaponizes the Open Meeting Law to shut down discussion when the conversation gets away from her side; hypocritically she chastises others for seeking advice from the State Ethics Commission while she wears the same as a badge of honor. If Genest cannot break her own bad habits, then Dracut should break them for her and not reelect Genest. ◊