Onset activist issued 'no trespass order' from Onset Fire District officials

Lisa Morales calls on Water Commission Chair Ben Hughes to resign
Mar 9, 2018

An Onset woman has been barred from entering the Onset Fire District’s offices as of Feb. 15 under a “no trespass order.”

Lisa Morales, who moved to Onset a year and a half ago, is accused of “aggressive verbal and physical conduct” and making “threats against members of the District’s administrative staff,” according to the order. The order was signed by Onset Water Commissioner Chair Ben Hughes and Prudential Committee Chair Charles Klueber.

Onset officials declined to comment on the specific nature of the threats. However, Hughes said he felt the need to support district employees after the incident.

“When folks inside the office tell me they feel a certain way I have a responsibility to react and have their back,” said Hughes.

According to the order, the incident occurred after a meeting held in the district’s offices at 15 Sand Pond Road on Jan. 25. Under Massachusetts state law, a property owner may issue a no trespass order to prevent an unwanted person from entering the property. A copy of the notice is then filed with police. If a person trespasses after being given the notice, they can then be criminally charged.

In recent months, Morales has called for accountability from district officials on a range of issues, including releasing health benefits information and the appointment of a member to the committee overseeing the construction of a new fire station. She has attended several meetings over that time, at times clashing verbally with board members.

Morales, who writes the blog Onset All Together, disputed the allegations.

“I don’t know who I allegedly assaulted,” she told Wareham Week.

According to Morales, one district clerk swore at her while she left the Jan. 25 meeting and another person present threatened her with a lawsuit.

Morales said despite the order she will continue to press district officials on a range of issues.

“This whole thing has been about transparency and accountability,” she said regarding the district. “This is not a social club, it’s a multi-million dollar operation.”

Morales said she had planned to run for either a seat on the Water Commission or the Prudential Committee in the next election, but is unable to pick up nomination papers due to the order.

According to published media reports, this isn’t the first time Morales has taken on public officials.

In 2014, while a resident of Dennis, Morales said two Dennis-Yarmouth School Committee members violated the state's Open Meeting Law. She said they discussed the school budget in comments on a private Facebook group ahead of a School Committee meeting.

The open meeting law prevents elected officials from discussing board business if a quorum is present outside of a posted meeting. The Facebook posts indicated committee members were not communicating with each other, but did provide information to other members of the group.

On March 8, during a joint meeting of the Onset Water Commission and Prudential Committee, Morales called on Hughes to resign, saying he is not an Onset resident. To serve on either board, officials must reside within the Onset Fire District.

According to documents on file with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Hughes owns a home in Wareham. According to voter registration rolls on file in the Town Clerk’s office, Hughes is listed as being an Onset resident when he was first elected in 2016 to a one-year term and again in 2017 when he was elected to a three-year term.

Morales said she has notified the Massachusetts Attorney General. Hughes declined to comment on the matter during the meeting, except to say: "My personal life is my personal life, and that's that," Hughes said.

Klueber said no one has questioned the residence of a board member during any time in his tenure. He said the issue is a moot point unless it can be proven "beyond reasonable doubt."

The Onset Fire District supplies water and fire protection for Onset. A separate Wareham Fire District performs the same function in Wareham. Separate from the Town of Wareham, the Fire District is overseen by an elected Prudential Committee and Board of Water Commissioners. The district sets the water rates and allocates funds for the Onset Fire Department.