Sandown selectmen are threatening to evict the Sandown Historical Society and its belongings from the town-owned train depot museum on Dec. 4 if the nonprofit doesn’t elect local residents to serve as officers on its executive board.
A dispute over the makeup of the board, which currently has no members from Sandown, has irked selectmen and recently prompted them to set Nov. 20 as the date of eviction if things didn’t change.
Selectmen agreed to extend the deadline to Dec. 4 at a meeting Monday, but made it clear that they’re losing patience.
“I think what would make sense for us is that, just flip the whole board to Sandown residents. I think it would be good for the town and the residents to see that it’s in the hands of active members that are Sandown residents running the historical society,” selectmen Chairman Darren Hudgins said.
Jim Weber, who lives in Maine and serves as the executive board’s vice chairman, told selectmen that requiring that only Sandown residents fill officer positions would violate the group’s bylaws and would be “rigging an election.”
Weber said the historical society has about 48 members and that any one of them could seek a position on the board when its election is held in October. However, he said no one from Sandown has volunteered to serve on the board.
“We’re not asking you to rig an election. We’re asking you to resign, all of you, flip the board,” Selectman Jonathan Goldman told Weber.
While he acknowledged that the historical society has its own bylaws, Goldman pointed out that the town has a policy stating that for a program to use a town building, 65% of its participants must be town residents.
He also expressed concern because the group hasn’t filed tax forms for a few years and is not in good standing with the state Attorney General’s Office’s Charitable Trusts Unit.
“At the end of the day the only thing that I care about is the Sandown artifacts and the Sandown history,” he said.
Sandown resident Shayla McNally said she moved to town in 2018 and has taken a recent interest in the historical society and all that it has to offer, especially for younger people who don’t know the local history.
She told selectmen that she knew of about 10 people who were willing to step forward and serve on the board.
Selectmen were hopeful that the people on McNally’s list would come through.
Selectman Thomas Tombarello said he was willing to give the historical society “one more chance.”
“If we can work it out we want to work it out,” he said.
The historical society has faced its share of troubles in recent years.
Anthony LoConte, its former treasurer, was forced to repay more than $10,000 that he stole from the organization after he pleaded guilty to felony theft by unauthorized taking earlier this year. He was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
Some historical society members have said they believe LoConte’s theft, which occurred between November 2017 and August 2019, put so much stress on former president Robert Brouder after he found out that he suffered a fatal heart attack on Sept. 10, 2019.