Abington’s Public Health Director is leaving after five years on the job citing “personal attacks and threats” by those angry about the department’s approach to the pandemic.
Marty Golightly made the announcement at Monday’s Board of Health meeting. Friday is his last day.
“Thanks to everyone who supported us and helped with everything and helped with all of our vaccination efforts and all of our efforts through the COVID pandemic,” he said to the board
In a brief interview interview on Tuesday, Golightly, who was previously a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, declined to comment further on the nature of the threats he has received.
Town Manager Scott Lambiase said residents can disagree with town policies but they are not allowed to threaten town employees.
“I have a very big concern with that and it won’t be tolerated,” he said.
“I understand passions are running high. All we’re doing is following the guidelines from the state and doing what we’re required to do.”
Lambiase said any threats against town employees will be turned over to the Abington Police Department.
Board of Health members Kevin Whalen and Melissa Pond thanked Golightly following his announcement.
“We appreciate all your efforts over the past two years guiding the town through the pandemic,” Whalen said. “Your team has done just a great job.”
“I’d also like to thank Marty for his tremendous work in getting us through the pandemic,” Pond said.
Board Chairman Aaron Christian was not at Monday’s meeting but praised Golightly in an interview on Tuesday.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re losing such a valuable asset,” he said. “[Golightly] has spent countless hours fighting this pandemic.”
Lambiase said there were no immediate plans to fill Golighty’s position, which also included overseeing day-to-day operations within the building department.
“For the most part we’re going to have to tread some water and see what comes our way,” he said. “Hopefully this surge is on the backend and then we can step back and assess what we’re doing.”
Public Health Nurse Lindsay Wright and Assistant Health Coordinator Chris Schultz will continue managing the department’s activities which include organizing vaccination clinics, conducting inspections, and overseeing trash collection services.
Christian said he hasn’t yet spoken to Lambiase about the department’s future, but feels Wright and Schultz are capable of carrying on its work.
Lambiase said he will assume management of the Building Department, which has been without a full-time Building Commissioner since June. His long-term goal remains to create a unified inspectional services department in order to streamline the municipal permitting, licensing, and inspections process.
Past Board of Health Chairwoman Terry Maze, who endorsed the hiring of Golightly back in 2018, said she was “heartbroken” to hear he has resigned.
“He was an amazing candidate that was perfect for our town,” she said adding that Golightly was a “true public servant.”
Abington’s Board of Health meetings have been marked recently by disruptive outbursts from residents in attendance and extended jousting between Golightly and a new board member.
The December 6 meeting was briefly put in recess when members of the public started interrupting a board discussion about issuing a mask advisory – not a mandate – for businesses and indoor public places. Earlier in the meeting Christian had ended public discussion after a speaker started to criticize Golighty’s job performance. Individual public employee job performance cannot be discussed during public meetings, under state law.
The December 20 meeting was abruptly adjourned after another disruptive interaction. Christian asked a member of the audience to leave after the person started recording the meeting on his phone and moved around the meeting room. When the person refused to stop recording and leave, the board voted to adjourn. State law allows the public to record meetings if they notify the board of their intention ahead of time and do so in a manner that doesn’t disrupt meetings.
Lawyers for the town told Abington Board and committee members during a November training session that they should consider temporarily recessing, or even adjourning, if meetings start to get heated.
The past two Board of Health meetings have been held via Zoom due to the dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases in town. While the public could watch the meetings live, they were not able to participate. Under the state’s Open Meeting Laws, municipal boards aren’t required to allow comment from the public, unless it’s a posted public hearing.