Selectmen to make decision on Bartolini removal hearing – April 3

by beth on March 24, 2017

Selectmen are scheduled to make a sure-to-be-controversial vote in 10 days. The decision on ousting a polarizing town official has been on hold since mid-December.

On April 3rd, Selectmen plan to resolve the removal hearing on Zoning Board of Appeals member (and former chair) Leo Bartolini.

The hearing was opened in the fall after multiple petitions were filed by residents claiming that the member acted inappropriately. After the first petition, Bartolini agreed to step down from his position as chair, but not from the board.

After the second petition, the Board of Selectmen allowed residents to present probable cause to pursue a removal hearing. The three presiding members* decided that Bartolini’s purportedly disrespectful treatment of residents was serious enough to trigger a hearing.

But allegations by residents and an attorney made during the hearing process were much more serious. The accusations of criminal activity appeared to cause backlash with the board, putting the decision on hold.

Residents’ attorney accused the ZBA member of false/improper ethics disclosures. And an official complaint was filed with the State Ethics Commission asking for an investigation of possible crimes.

In that request by Attorney Gary S Brackett, it asks that if criminal activity is discovered that all decisions on which Bartolini participated be invalidated – not just Park Central. That would cover a lot of decisions over many years.

Following that filing, selectmen decided to put the hearing on temporary hold. Selectman Paul Cimino said they should wait to hear what the state had to say. 

Advised that may take a long time, Cimino asked the Town Administrator Mark Purple to find out how long. If it was to remain unresolved too long, they should move ahead.

That was on December 19th. On March 21st, Chair Brian Shea announced that the board has decided it is time to resolve the issue and hold the hearing to make a decision. Today, Purple confirmed that is currently scheduled for their April 3rd meeting.

Either way this goes, there will be an outcry. Many residents angered over the Town’s handling of Park Central believe Bartolini acted improperly in some way. But supporters of Bartolini have argued it is a witch hunt based on anger over a project whose opponents are crying NIMBY (not in my backyard).

If Bartolini wins his case, that may not be the end of it.

At this coming Annual Town Meeting, a citizen’s petition article (continued from the March Special Town Meeting) will address the process for recalling appointed Town Officials. It provides ways to trigger a hearing.

If approved, it would still rely on selectmen to make a decision. But after the Town Election in May one or two of those votes would be cast by different members. Cimino is letting his term expire. Selectman Dan Kolenda, also presiding on the case, will be running for re-election alongside five other candidates for the two seats.

And if Bartolini loses, it may still not be the end of it.

His unwillingness to step down, even in matters related to Park Central, seems to show a resolve to maintain he is in the right. It’s certainly possible he would pursue legal action.

And then, of course, is the question of when or if the public will hear from the Ethics Commission on the case.

I followed up with the Commission and learned that unless they make a final finding against the accused, the matter is kept confidential – to the point that they won’t even publicly acknowledge a complaint was filed. As of today, there is no public release on a decision.

(If anyone knows if the status of the complaint, please feel free to comment or reach out.)

*Selectmen Bonnie Phaneuf and John Rooney were conflicted out of participating in the hearings.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 D. McGee March 24, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Bartolini is a throwback to the bad old days of backroom politicking and arrogance of power. He is an embarrassment to the town, and would resign if he had any dignity or sense of pride. But he won’t, so he needs to be removed. He is condescending to the townspeople, lacking in a sound knowledge of the rules and laws, and just downright rude. The ZBA serves the citizens, not the business owners or Bartolini’s cronies.

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2 louise barron March 24, 2017 at 8:05 PM

Bartolini never should have been on the ZBA. Talk about a conflict. Mrs. Phaneuf’s business is also involved one way or another with developers in this town. Bill Christainsen was another steller individual presiding over the Selectmen. This town needs to drain the swamp. Sound familiar?????

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3 Donna McDaniel March 26, 2017 at 11:28 PM

Of course, this is a place to express your concerns though we would expect– there’d be some justification for them. Otherwise, what good is to add a rather tired old accusation about “the bad old days of backroom politicking” etc.? You have specific verifiable examples?
As a reporter for the then-Middlesex News for seven years, I was fanatic– covering every selectmen’s meeting, just about every session of the advisory board, ZBA, planning board, both school committees, and, of course, town meetings. (And loved it all!)
Every selectmen’s meeting attracted reporters from two other daily newspapers (Worcester and Marlboro) and a Marlboro radio station So I would ask you for specific evidence that justifies your serious accusations of nefarious decision-making.
Were decisions always perfect or wise? Of course not! We elect humans. I can cite examples of imperfections and things that I didn’t agree with but that’s FAR from that image o f backroom politicking.” Do officials in other levels of our state and US government get away with some pretty shady (likely remunerative) deals thus giving terrible impressions spread to all those we elect? Yes, I’m sorry to say. But they are not in our town hall. They are not the people we elected in our town. So let’s keep things straight if we want good people to continue to be willing to serve us and run our town.
In 1978, when I left the News, I ran for Selectman for three years and can attest that the words you chose match nothing I encountered or participated in. Still, a few days after I was elected (proud to say — first woman and largest turnout in town up to that time), I received anonymous mail accusing me of being a puppet of some state official I had never met and who’d answer the same about me. “Who? What??”
Did I always agree with my fellow selectmen? No! Was I taking orders from someone else in a backroom? No! Were the other two doing things behind my back? No! They knew I had been watching them for three years and knew them well. We still had a League of Women Voters sending observers to meetings too.
Besides, I had no time for backroom deals– I was busy enough with some part-time editing and the challenges of caring for two teenage sons.

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4 D. McGee March 27, 2017 at 10:07 AM

Thank you for your service and I’m glad you were a Selectwoman on the up and up. However, if you actually read my reply to the initial post, my comment has NOTHING to do with Selectman making backroom deals. Rather, my comment was solely directed at the former Chair of the ZBA, who is currently the subject of state ethics violations inquiries and is being considered for removal by the Selectman after multiple petitions from townspeople. With respect to him, I do have very specific, personal examples I could cite, none of which I will provide on this forum.

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5 mark dassoni March 27, 2017 at 11:35 AM

By having the Bartolini agenda going in early April, the Selectmen are hoping it won”t as contagious as it was earlier at other meetings, the citizens attorney and petitions should be heard without interruption , knowing Bartolini attorney will speak he has same uninterrupted time to speak, plus have Mr. Bartolini speak on his own defense it only fair for that to happen, ones that should not get to speak are anybody from developers sides and their lawyers, the planning board chair should get his say without interruption by anybody selectmen or outside audience disruptions ,town citizens-voters been down this road for too long it like a comedy-circus, get it done! Mark Dassoni .

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6 mark dassoni March 28, 2017 at 10:35 AM

read in the metro west march 28 newspaper that selectmen will do this meeting behind closed doors no public citizen involved at all, undecided on that but Flagg RD. petition attorney should be interested, planning board this seems to me that your board might be attacked by selectmen be ready for that .,behind closed doors no public is a wrongful thing to have done, mark dassoni .

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7 beth March 28, 2017 at 11:05 AM

You misunderstood the article. The decision will be voted on in a public meeting, not a closed executive session.

That the public hearing is closed means that the interaction and discussion with citizens, defendent, and plaintiffs is over. Selectmen won’t be considering new evidence or receiving public comment to weigh in on that decision. They will be voting in public. They could potentially debate/discuss merits between themselves first.

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8 mark dassoni March 28, 2017 at 11:16 AM

Thank you Beth, when voting in public will it be televised live on Southborough access tv? mark dassoni .

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9 beth March 28, 2017 at 11:34 AM

It should be. The meeting is scheduled to be held in the Hearing room which is set up to allow Southborough Access Media to broadcast live.

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10 mark dassoni March 28, 2017 at 11:47 AM

by saying should be, who has final say? mark dassoni

11 beth March 28, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Southborough Access Media is encouraged by selectmen to air all of their meetings. And SAM makes an effort to do that – at least for all of the evening meetings. Barring some kind of staffing or equipment issue, I would expect that they will cover this one as usual.

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12 mark dassoni March 28, 2017 at 2:08 PM

again thank you, I have been following this and will continue either at meeting or home watching, mark dassoni .

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