SALEM — Tempers flared last night as selectmen chose new leaders at their first meeting since the election March 12.
A meeting that began with a tense discussion of who should lead the board later led to accusations that two selectmen illegally leaked information about a nonpublic meeting. But by the time it was over, selectmen were joking with each other.
It all started when Selectman Stephen Campbell kicked off the board’s election of officers by nominating Everett McBride Jr. as chairman and Patrick Hargreaves — the previous chairman — as the new vice chairman. Campbell also nominated himself as secretary.
James Keller, the previous vice chairman, became angry.
Keller abstained when the nominations came up for a vote. He said he was frustrated the entire board did not discuss the positions before taking a vote. Selectman Michael Lyons also abstained, but did not give a reason.
Hargreaves, Campbell and McBride voted in favor of the nominations without further discussion.
“What’s disappointing is that there is generally a conversation,” Keller said. “We didn’t collaborate ... I’m just disappointed.”
Hargreaves, Campbell and McBride often vote differently on issues from Keller and Lyons, who end up on the losing side.
Keller accused the three of consulting with each other and not contacting him or Lyons.
Hargreaves then congratulated McBride and handed him the chairman’s gavel.
“I think we will work together as a board,” McBride said. “I think that the board did work together as a board last year.”
McBride spoke to selectmen about potential committee assignments and said they will discuss the board’s bylaws and code of ethics at a future meeting.
“I think we will work together as a great team,” he said.
But Keller still appeared to be upset. Although Lyons did not say during the meeting why he abstained from voting for new leaders, he did comment after when questioned by a reporter.