Ethics guidelines to be streamlined
Published 4:04 pm, Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Town Attorney Randy DiBella will work as an advisor with the committee of volunteers.
"The process is to get procedures in place in a workable and understandable format that doesn't take a team of lawyers to interpret," Mr. DiBella said. "I have reviewed the ethics code and determined that there is a need for a comprehensive, abbreviated set of rules. At the mayor's request, I will come up with an outline draft."
The need for a clear set of rules to follow during an ethics complaint hearing has been apparent since the 2004 ethics complaint against then Finance Board member John Spatola. That complaint led to a lawsuit that was eventually dismissed but resulted in the town paying over $90,000 in compensation to Mr. Spatola for his legal fees.
The complaint alleged that a vote Mr. Spatola cast while serving on the finance board interfered with the town buying 162 acres of former reservoir property. The complaint was that Mr. Spatola benefited financially from that vote when a business associate, Tom Pilla, eventually bought the property and Mr. Spatola subsequently had business dealings involving building lots on the parcel.
"There was no written procedures for the Ethics Commission to follow," Mayor Murphy said Tuesday. "The hearings got drawn out and it is thought that is part of what contributed to the high legal fees. If you're going to have a system, there has to be an order. These are hard-working volunteers, not attorneys on the commission."
The draft rules of procedure that Mr. DiBella will write with the temporary committee's input will then be presented to the Ethics Commission for consideration and possible adoption.
Mayor Murphy noted ethics complaint hearings will still be administrative hearings and not judicial hearings.
They will be used to determine if there was a conflict of interest on the part of a town official or a volunteer on a commission or board.