With Contract Ratified, Snell Thanks Commission And Calls Out Critics For "Orchestrated" Attack

Jason Graziadei •

With a strong endorsement from the members of the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC) and an overwhelming vote to ratify her contract, the island's planning director Leslie Snell took some time on Tuesday to reflect on a very public referendum. 

"Yes, I felt this was personal," she told the Current

Nantucket Planning Director Leslie Snell

A determination earlier this month by the state Attorney General that the NP&EDC had violated the open meeting law during the hiring process in 2023 when Snell was chosen to succeed outgoing planning director Andrew Vorce prompted an outcry and calls for the commission to start from scratch with a formal search process to fill the position. Monday night's NP&EDC meeting was watched by more than 100 people in-person and on Zoom as island community members assailed the NP&EDC for the violation and urged it to consider a new search rather than ratify Snell's contract. But the commission ultimately voted 9-0 - with two abstentions - to ratify the contract anyway. 

"I appreciate the overwhelming and unwavering support I received from the Commission and many members of the public who have reached out to me personally," Snell said. "The testimony requesting a wider search was orchestrated, and largely solicited by a form letter, which was selectively circulated."

Snell declined a phone interview with the Current, and responded to several questions by email on Tuesday, the day after the meeting. 

While she acknowledged that many of those who spoke out to call on the commission to conduct a search for the planning director position were criticizing the process rather than her specifically, Snell said it did feel as though the outcry was directed at her. 

"Other positions within the Town have been filled through succession planning and those were either praised or went without comment, so yes, I felt this was personal," she sad. "However, the large majority of those who requested a formal search didn’t question my qualifications or my job performance as the director, they simply expressed a view that I should have had to compete for the position against other potential candidates."

The open meeting law complaint was originally filed by Meghan Perry, who has criticized Snell in the past - specifically regarding her handling of certain aspects of the Surfside Crossing development. Hillary Hedges Rayport, another vocal critic of the Planning Department's performance under Vorce and Snell, was also outspoken in her desire to see a public search and called out perceived conflicts of interest among the NP&EDC members prior to Monday night's vote. Snell said both Perry and Rayport had made it personal and had helped "orchestrate" the outcry over the hiring process that led to her promotion last May. 

"It’s part of an ongoing public attack orchestrated by a few people attempting to discredit my professional reputation, as well documented by multiple sources, Snell said. 

During Monday's meeting, Perry refuted that sentiment, stating "This is about proper process and procedure, not a person." 

The violation and the public episode that followed put Snell in the spotlight less than a year into her tenure as planning director, but she said her support system ultimately allowed her to navigate it without letting some of the criticism get to her. 

"I’ve never been one to let negativity get to me, and I have a strong network of colleagues, friends, and family who support me," Snell said. "Over the years I’ve learned from other professionals that you can’t please everyone and you have to be able to press forward."

With the meeting and vote on ratification now in the rearview, we asked: would she have done anything differently? 

"I stand behind the decision to conduct initial contract negotiations in executive session, however, we all now know that the meeting posting should have been more precise and the nature of the discussion more limited," Snell said. "These unintentional errors have been mischaracterized by members of the public and neither I, or the Commission, intended to proceed with a process in violation of the OML or to evade our responsibilities to the public."

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