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Lanesborough Residents Approve 2022 Budget As Town Meeting Ends In Confusion

Rows of people sit in folding chairs in a gym under an American flag
Josh Landes
The 2021 Lanesborough, Massachusetts town meeting.

Lanesborough, Massachusetts had a bizarre conclusion to its annual town meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting, held in the gym of the town’s elementary school, saw town voters approve articles like a $10.1 million operating budget for fiscal year 2022 and a $300,000 spending plan for a new ambulance. But as moderator Christopher Dodig noted, its final item proved to be a doozy from the get-go.

“Article 28, the last on ours, is actually mis-numbered article 27 on the warrant – but clearly it’s article 28,” he said.

The article was a citizens’ petition submitted by Donald Dermeyer, who offered an introduction to the proposed bylaw before quickly exiting the meeting.

“I did not collect all the signatures," noted Dermeyer. "There were a number of people involved in collecting signatures. The requirement for a warrant petition warrant is 10 signatures. Although there were some unusual things that happened with some of the signatures, at least one we know about, there are still 10 valid signatures that have been- We contacted the people who signed and who are prepared to say, it's a valid petition, and I know it's been certified. So having said that, I was prepared to make a plea for this to be approved. And I put it on the petition mainly to have the town have an opportunity to discuss it if they so choose. Looking at my watch and knowing it's way past my bedtime, if you all want to have a conversation, that's real good. I hope you have a nice time, I'm going home.”

His proposed bylaw, as written, would seek to shield the town of Lanesborough from any efforts on the part of the federal government to limit Second Amendment rights. The first to comment was Bri Morrison, who is running for select board in the June 15th town election.

“We are not equipped to take on the federal government," she told the meeting. "We have a very large police department, that's for sure. 13 people for a town of less than 3,000 is a lot. It’s higher, a higher ratio than most metropolitan areas. But realistically, like, I just want to be very clear with everyone here. If the federal government wants to come in and take your guns, they're going to come in with their armored cars, and they're going to come in with, like, the- I mean, they've historically bombed entire neighborhoods, right?”

At this point, meeting attendees called for her to stop speaking as she had reached the end of the three-minute time limit.

“OK, well, I'm just still going to speak," said Morrison. "You will have to physically remove me. And so – oh fucking do it, please, I dare you dude, I dare you.”

Dodig asked Morrison if she was arguing either for or against the bylaw. She clarified she was not arguing either way.

“We need to realize that we are not organized in any meaningful way to take on the federal government," Morrison said. "And like, I'm going say it but like, fuck the feds, so that's fine. But like, we need to make sure that if we are going to do that we are prepared for that.”

“In the Commonwealth, you do have the ability to home rule to rule your own home, provided it is not inconsistent with state or federal law," said town counsel Jeffrey Blake. “In my opinion, what this citizens’ petition is – a large, large share of this – is inconsistent with state and federal law. The Attorney General who would have to approve all general bylaws before they would come become effective, in my opinion, she will disapprove this bylaw.”

But the strangest twist was yet to come. Lanesborough resident Casey Conry got up to speak about Dermeyer’s petition.

“Earlier today I brought it to his attention and the clerk's attention that the ninth out of the 10, the first, the number nine signature is a forgery," said Conry. "It is my brother. I talked to him today, he was unable to make it today. The last name is actually, it’s spelt incorrectly. C-O-N-R-O-Y. It's very typical way to misspell my last name. My wife Christina Conry, her name is spelt Conroy in this tonight- Evidence that it's an easy misspelling. So I brought it to his attention that it is a forgery. He said he knew the person, believed he knew who the person was. And he promised me on the phone today that he was going to withdraw it tonight. So I wanted to bring to everyone's attention that he believes it's a forgery. He knows it's a forgery, yet he still brought it to the attention tonight.”

Conry said he suspected other signatures on the petition were also forged, and the article was eliminated from consideration at the meeting in a vote.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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