Ex-councilwoman says ‘personal agendas’ forced her resignation
By Alex Bridges
Donna M.G. Gray claims a “good ol’ boy way of doing things” drove her to quit Middletown Town Council.
Now Gray says she fears former council members may try to fill her seat and two other vacancies in a special election in November.
Gray gave no reason for her resignation in the letter she submitted to the town on Monday. But in a phone conversation Thursday, Gray explained that she felt frustrated by the actions of a few council members.
“You go into meetings and there’s a couple people … that just have the ability to be in the office and everything a lot and so they are kind of running and directing things,” Gray said. “We have a very young mayor and that was one of the things that I was a little bit wary of in the beginning anyway.
“It’s a waste of my time when I’m going to meetings or we make some decisions and work sessions or committee meetings and turn around and something’s changed at the next meeting,” Gray added. “So I just feel like it’s a lot of behind the scenes, pulling strings are going on.”
Gray won election to council in November 2010 as a write-in candidate not long after her termination from her job as town treasurer. Since joining council, its make up has changed as a result of resignations, lost re-election bids and appointments.
“It is a different council and I had great hopes, and it is better in a lot of ways,” Gray said. “I expected more.”
Gray said she didn’t make the decision lightly and thought of her supporters.
“I’ve been struggling with this for quite a while,” Gray said. “I didn’t want to resign because of the people who did elect me. I felt very strongly about that and I know how that can leave a bad taste in my mouth when someone does resign.
“But there comes a time when you have to go ‘enough’s enough. I’m not able to be productive. It’s wasting my time and my family’s time,'” Gray said.
Gray recalled that she felt proud of her unexpected election win on a write-in campaign.
Gray said she would like to have served as chairwoman of the finance and personnel committees. She said she has more experience than the other council members who chair those committees.
Some members of council occasionally kept Gray out of the loop on some important issues in the town, she said. For example, Gray, as a member of the personnel committee, said she was not advised of the Middletown police officer put on leave as a result of a restraining order. That order and an assault and battery charge were dropped and the officer reinstated. Gray said she was not advised that any of this occurred and instead read about the matter in a newspaper.
“I think we all should’ve been [told], let alone those on that committee,” Gray said.
Gray recalled that Vice Mayor John Copeland approached her months ago and asked if she would consider returning to her job as town treasurer “because of the struggles that are going on with that position.”
The former councilwoman said she has no interest in taking her old job. Likewise, she ruled out making another run at council later, even if the membership changed.
“I think people are going to be surprised at the people that get on the Planning Commission and possibly on council, and that does worry me with there being so many vacancies and the election coming up,” Gray said. “I’m afraid some of the previous administration’s going to come back in.”
Council has appointed two former members who resigned last spring — Gilbert D. “Gil” Barrington and John Wesley Blaisdell Jr. — to serve on the Planning Commission. Barrington and Blaisdell blamed infighting among members for their resignations.
Gray pointed out that moving the council elections from May to November played a role in her decision to resign. Gray has about 18 months left of her four-year term before the next regular election. She noted that she did not plan on running for a second term. That 18 months seemed too long to stay on council, she said.
“I was struggling to make it through the four years,” Gray said. “I had someone tell me in the beginning that had been on council before that you don’t realize how long four yea, and you really don’t.”
Gray’s concerns echo those of former mayor Marshall “Mark” Brown who, in his resignation in early 2012, claimed some members let personal agendas take control of council.
“I think that there are a lot of personal agendas going on that are taking precedence over that and it’s very frustrating,” Gray said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org