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Three Montville Parks & Rec commissioners resign

Montville — The Town Council accepted the resignations of three members of the Parks & Recreation Commission last week. The three had cited frustration with Parks & Rec Department Director Peter Bushway as the primary reason for their departures.

Chair Karen Perkins, Vice Chair Danielle Butzgy and Secretary Dawn Penman submitted resignation letters at different points in June. The Town Council convened on June 24 to determine whether to accept the resignations. It did, on a narrow 4-3 vote. Some councilors hoped the longtime members would stay on to try and ameliorate the issues with Bushway with the help of the Town Council.

Perkins was appointed to the Commission in 2011. Butzgy and Penman began their tenures in 2017. All three criticized Bushway in their letters of resignation.

“I feel that it is very important, no matter what commission or committee you are on, to communicate,” Perkins wrote in her resignation letter. “I often stressed it because I didn’t like how the commission was run prior, with the lack of communication in the group. The current commissioners work very well together. We all communicate with one another — it has been a pleasure working with them. Unfortunately the Director does not communicate well with the commission. As much as we tried to help/offer ideas to the Director, it felt like we were wasting our time. Very disappointing.”

Bushway did not respond to requests for comment.

Penman could not be reached for comment. Her reasons for resigning were similar to Perkins'.

“I have truly enjoyed my time on this commission and working with the members has been very rewarding,” Penman wrote. “I, however, have left many meetings with frustration due to the Director not following through on tasks and I don't feel that is how it should be. We, as a commission, volunteer our time to make events and programs better for our town, yet the Director is continually disregarding our efforts.”

Butzgy declined to comment for this story. In her resignation letter, she said commission ideas were met with resistance by Bushway, and that he didn’t follow through on commission decisions.

“I am no longer willing to spend my valuable time going in circles with nothing changing from a leadership level,” Butzgy wrote. “The lack of urgency with anything, lack of communication with the commission and the unwillingness to change and learn new things has put a damper on my passion to evolve Montville Parks & Recreation. I can no longer listen to the complaints on how ‘lacking’ our townʹs programs are and not able to give the townspeople a solid response that ‘change’ is coming.”

The commission now has four vacancies to fill, as Commissioner Mark Bushwack resigned earlier in June for reasons unrelated to the other three resignations. He cited “unforeseen issues and obligations” in his resignation letter. He could not be reached for comment.

Commissioner Jennifer Hajj lamented the exits of Butzgy, Penman and Perkins. “The three of them were very active, volunteered at most events, made up most of the carnival committee, and I think it’s a great loss that they’re no longer part of the Commission,” she said.

Hajj said communication with Bushway, as well as department implementation of commission policies and ideas, could be improved.

“I had heard there was some friction, and I’m looking forward to alleviating that as best as possible moving forward,” Hajj said.

She thinks it best that the commission work with the Town Council and the department to address the issues the three commissioners highlighted in their resignation letters.

“This is not something the commission alone can address, it really needs to be a joint effort between Town Council, the mayor and the director with the commission, and all the checks and balances need to be active and working in order for things to get better,” Hajj said.

A 2008 legal review of the relationship between the commission and the department, as well as the mayor, gave broad powers to the commission in handling the “responsibility for the management, control and development of the Town’s parks and recreational facilities.” The three commissioners were not specific about how Bushway was not following through on commission directives.

Councilors said the Town Council will discuss filling the vacancies at its next meeting.

s.spinella@theday.com

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