The Foxborough Board of Selectmen appointed a new public advisory committee at Tuesday’s meeting to explore future business opportunities with The Kraft Group that are mutually beneficial for the town and The Kraft organization.
The advisory committee, operating under the current name “Kraft Organization/Business Opportunities Discussion Group,” has already begun meeting – most recently last Friday – and on Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen officially appointed four members to the committee.
Those members are Kevin Weinfeld, chairman of the Planning Board, Bill Euerle, chairman of the Board of Water & Sewer Commissioners, Lynda Walsh, member of the Board of Selectmen and Dave Brown, a Foxborough resident.
The purpose of these meetings, according to the statement prepared by Foxborough Town Counsel Richard Gelerman and Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis is “to meet with representatives of The Kraft Organization to discuss potential opportunities that may serve the town of Foxborough as well as assist their development needs.”
The statement adds that the committee should be considered a public body and its meetings must be open to the public.
Gelerman acknowledged the committee will use these discussions with The Kraft Group as a chance to explore future business opportunities but said the committee should not be negotiating.
“This should be a public body and all of that entails, which means the public can attend all of its meetings and the committee can learn from the public what is on their mind,” Gelerman said.
Each member of the committee has been instructed to report back to his or her respective board to report on the findings and results of these discussions.
Town Manager Kevin Paicos said he is hopeful the new committee will work well with The Kraft Group and find beneficial business opportunities for both parties in Foxborough.
“We’ve gone through a difficult time in our relationship with the Kraft Organization, everyone knows that,” Paicos said. “I think the hope is that we get an opportunity to try and mend the relationship, improve it, learn from the past and move forward … it’s a real hope that there’s mutually beneficial business opportunities here that we can go forward on that don’t include casinos but do include a lot of other good things.”
Moving forward for the greater good of business in Foxborough is the underlining point of these discussions, according to Paicos.
“I’m hopeful this round of discussion is going to produce something valuable for both parties because at the end of the day the town ain’t going anywhere and they’re not going anywhere and they’re our biggest business partner and that’s the reality,” Paicos said.
A spokesman for The Kraft Group declined to comment on the town’s newly formed committee, saying it is preferred, at this time, the conversation is kept at the table, citing there has only been one face-to-face meeting between the committee and The Kraft Group thus far.
The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Andrew Gala Jr. Meeting Room of Town Hall.
Executive Session at Committee’s Last Meeting Went ‘Radioactive’
Gelerman, unaware of the purpose of the committee and its charge to be a public body, called for an executive session for the first 10 minutes of last Friday's meeting, which sparked a lot of converstation amongst the crowd, according to Paicos.
“Who would have thought an executive session was radioactive,” Gelerman said at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Gelerman told Walsh that the executive session meeting minutes should be made available to the public at the next committee meeting and the reasoning for the closed door session last week was for town counsel to ask a question related to the issue of ticket sales in the Kraft stadium lease agreement.
DeVellis apologized to Gelerman for not fully briefing him on the meeting before attending it.
“The purpose of these meetings are their openness,” DeVellis said at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. “I apologize to [Gelerman].”
Walsh Discloses Potential Conflict of Interest
Walsh took time to publicly read aloud her disclosure regarding a possible conflict of interest between her role as a selectman and her role in the newly established public advisory committee.
“I do this to dispel the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Walsh said. “I am currently a selectman here in town and most recently have been asked to sit on an Ad Hoc Committee to begin discussions with The Kraft Group about their request for additional liquor licenses and the town’s need to join regionalization of water and waste with Mansfield and Norton.
“Previously, I have been a trustee for the Doolittle Home, I was on the Founders Day Committee for a couple of years and I am currently a member of the Foxboro Jaycees. I am proud to be involved in many organizations in town and I have never let my membership cloud a judgment of any individual or organization who has come before this Board of Selectmen. There have been many times The Kraft Organization, as well as many other commercial entities have supported these groups, whether it be a donation or a gift to be auctioned off at the Doolittle auction or a football to be raffled off at Founders Day.
“I would like to ensure the town that any vote that I have taken at my seat at the Board of Selectmen has been made after I completed my research, is purely on facts and what will be best for the town. Taking into account these facts, I feel that I can perform my duties objectively and fairly.”
Walsh also encouraged her fellow selectmen to “dig deep” and search for what they might be under the microscope for when it comes to a potential conflict of interest.
“You might be doing a great thing for an organization but you could be subjecting yourself to a conflict of interest,” Walsh said. “It’s very unfortunate that most of our boards are made up of people who are soccer coaches, baseball coaches … people who do a lot for the town.”