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Cheshire Town Historian Ron Gagliardi has decided to wave a white flag.
Gagliardi was due in court today to fight an eviction notice from the Cheshire Historical Society, but he withdrew his petition to stay in his office at the Hitchcock-Phillips house. The Historical Society had tried to evict Gagliardi and he initially intended to fight his removal. Gagliardi said that, while his attorney was confident they would win the case, there was a chance he could be hit with damages and excessive fees, which he felt wasn't worth the risk.
Now, Gagliardi said, he is asking for 30-plus days to clear out the small corner room he has used as an office for the past few years at the historic home on Church Drive.
"I am withdrawing my claim," Gagliardi said.
Exact reasons for the eviction notice are unknown. Neither Historical Society President Cara Luciani nor Historical Society Curator Mary Ellen Kania returned calls for comment. Gagliardi said there was more to the story, but he wasn't willing to elaborate on the matter. Instead, he plans to speak at Tuesday night's Town Council meeting to bring the back story of this eviction notice to light, which he hinted contains "a lot of interesting information."
Gagliardi, the Town Historian since 2003, asked for an office at the Hitchcock-Phillips house to hold meetings and discuss Cheshire's history, he said. According to Gagliardi, a lease was never signed, nor was there an oral agreement for his occupancy. However, he felt that with the historian's term being indefinite, that the lease would also be considered indefinite.
Rather, he learned that, without a signed lease, there was a month-to-month period and he could be thrown out at the end of 30 days with notice. Gagliardi said he has spent countless hours hauling in desks, chairs, storage units, and display cases for the space, and he never would have done so if he knew he would be “kicked to the curb” like this.
"Who in their right mind would accept that agreement?" he asked. "I guarantee you I wouldn't have accepted that office if those were the terms."
Gagliardi's eviction notice came on the heels of the Town Council voting to change the term limit for the Town Historian from indefinite to two years, coinciding with Council elections.
On Dec. 9, along party lines, the Council voted to change the term limit. The seven Republicans voted in favor of the motion, while the Council's two Democrats voted against it. According to Council Chairman Tim Slocum, a Republican, the Town Historian was the only appointed position in Town that had an indefinite term. In an effort to be consistent, he said, it was brought forward to institute the two-year limit.
He noted that recommendations come from the Historical Society and Gagliardi could certainly be nominated again in December.
"It's silly to have any position in town that's indefinite and that's the only position that doesn't have a term. It's just a bit of housekeeping," Slocum said. "Ron has performed the job admirably and ably. We just needed to neaten it up a little bit."
At the meeting, Gagliardi tried to defend himself, but Slocum said there was no reason for him to do so. Additionally, both of the Council Democrats wanted to delay the vote, but Slocum took a vote anyway, Gagliardi said. He also claimed that Slocum knew of the eviction notice before he pushed the term limit vote forward at the Dec. 9 Council meeting and he wants to shed light on what led to this moment.
"I want to give the back story," Gagliardi said. "There is a lot of interesting information in there."
The Town Council meets on Tuesday Jan. 11 and 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.