The abrupt resignation of Selectman Enrico “Jack” Villamaino III amid a criminal investigation into possible voter fraud has not only riveted taxpayers and beyond, but has created uncertainty over the future political leadership in this town of 15,000 and left potential candidates for the board in limbo. Villamaino, who is running for state representative in the 2nd Hampden District, tendered his resignation in absentia at a crowded selectman’s meeting on Wednesday, with residents packing a conference room at the senior center hoping for answers about the pending investigation. Selectman James Driscoll, who proffered his own resignation in late July, announced that Villamaino resigned via email effective at 4 p.m.
In the next breath, Driscoll told the crowd that he was rescinding his resignation, which was to be effective Sept. 4. The two back-to-back resignations would have left a single member, Selectman Paul Federici, on the three-member board and effectively crippled the town’s governing body. The announcement prompted a geyser of questions – primarily from candidates who had already announced their intentions for what they believed to be solely Driscoll’s vacant seat in the next town election in April.
“It puts us in quite a mess. Jim’s sticking around for whatever reason is a good thing for the town,” but the chain of events has left candidates in a conundrum, said Peter S. Punderson, one of two candidates who had publicly declared his intent to run for Driscoll’s seat. Driscoll did not commit to an end date for his term, saying only that he wants to see the town through the criminal investigation.