Financial Inquiry Causes Schism in Trenton

TRENTON — Discord between political factions here has recently surfaced at meetings of the Board of Selectmen.


On one side are Selectman Julee Swanson and resident Susan Starr, who is a candidate for selectman in the May 21 election, and their supporters. They have complained about the way Town Clerk Janet Muise does parts of her job, raising questions in particular about what they believe are irregularities in her administration of the general assistance welfare program.

Swanson also claims that the other four selectmen sometimes discuss town business and make decisions out of the public eye and without including her.

On the other side of the political divide, Selectmen Jim Cameron, Carlene Hanscom, Mike Hodgkins and Mike Swanson (no relation to Julee Swanson) deny that they ever exclude Swanson or that they conduct the public’s business in private. Critics who don’t like the way the town is being run are creating turmoil and tarnishing the town’s image by making baseless accusations, they say, and they condemn the questioning of Muise’s integrity and professionalism as a witch hunt.

Muise is set to retire June 30 after 39 years as town clerk and 15 years as the board’s administrative assistant. But her successor, John Brushwein, has said he plans to keep her on part time to provide clerical help.

The rift in the board was evident at the selectmen’s April 20 meeting, when Cameron, the board chairman, angrily asked Swanson why she had met recently with the town’s financial auditor, James Wadman, on her own and without the board’s authorization. She said she had concerns about some of the town’s general assistance payments.

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