By Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW – After a handful of failed attempts and close calls, William Gorman can finally call himself a selectman.
Gorman defeated former Selectman Peter Punderson at the April 8 Annual Town Election by more than a 2-1 margin to fill a three-year term on the Board of Selectman that is being vacated by Selectman and Republican state Senate hopeful Debra Boronski. Gorman received 1,005 votes, while Punderson got 471.
“All I can do is say to the people that the corruption is ended in East Longmeadow,” he said outside of Birchland Park Middle School after the votes were tallied. “They can’t buy me and they can’t steer me around.”
Gorman said he was looking forward to working with Selectman Angela Thorpe and Chair Paul Federici, as well as other members of the town’s leadership in the interest of transparency.
“I’m sure I can work with both of them,” he said. “The main thing I want to do is work with other departments. I think that’s where they’re failing. I want to be more transparent to the public on what’s going on. I hope to get things straightened out and get things more open to the public.”
The loss marks Punderson’s second straight bid for a three-year term after playing out the end of former Selectman James Driscoll’s term after beating Thorpe in a 2012 special election. Thorpe then beat him in his re-election bid in April 2013.
Punderson was not present when Town Clerk Thomas Florence read the unofficial results and was not immediately available for comment at the town’s central polling location afterward.
Gorman said he sympathized with Punderson, whose campaign was mired by questions related to his recent decision to file for bankruptcy and a pending lawsuit against him by a former business partner.
“I feel sorry for the Punderson family – Mr. Punderson and his brothers,” Gorman said. “I think Pete should have gotten out of the race because of the situation he was in, but all I can say is ‘Team Corruption’ behind him didn’t seem to care about his family and kept pushing him to go. I feel bad for that.”
Gorman also offered to help Punderson with his difficulties in any way he could.
Gorman identified three issues he wished to immediately address as a member of the board – taxes, rumors of missing money and hiring practices.
Gorman previously stated during a debate sponsored by the Council on Aging that he felt the dramatic increase in property taxes was illegal.
He also said that he was not sure how true talk of a missing $1.5 million from the general budget was, but vowed to get to the bottom of the issue. He also mentioned the possibility of missing money during the debate, but Town Accountant Thomas Caliento declined to comment when queried about the statement by Reminder Publications following the event.
He also said the hiring process for East Longmeadow was unethical.
“Their hiring process is as corrupt as I’ve seen,” he said. “There are kids that should be hired that aren’t hired because of what’s going on.”
Gorman thanked his wife, Linda – “who didn’t want me to run” – for standing by him during the tough campaign.
“Forty-eight years of marriage, I wasn’t sure if we would be getting a divorce,” he joked.
Florence said the approximately 14.5 percent voter turnout was about what he expected, explaining that last year’s town election drew 18.2 percent, but featured multiple contested races.
“Obviously we’re always looking for more, but this is about average,” he said.
The next Board of Selectmen meeting is slated to take place on April 11 at 4 p.m. in the Town Hall hearing room.