Last night, the Board of Selectmen discussed their decision to potentially remove Leo Bartolini from the Zoning Board of Appeals. But the only vote they made was to indefinitely put off the decision.
Over objections of Selectman Dan Kolenda, members Paul Cimino and Chair Brian Shea voted to postpone their vote to a date to be determined. The action was based on the recent complaint filed by residents with the State Ethics Commission.
The complaint asked the state to determine that Bartolini acted improperly.
All agreed that the state’s findings would not be something the board members could consider as part of their deliberations, since the hearing already closed. But Cimino strongly urged fellow members to wait for the outcome.
Cimino argued that if the Ethics Commissions findings were in opposition to the board’s findings, there would be a petition or request for the board to revisit the decision. He repeatedly stressed that was possible whichever way they voted.
The selectman said he didn’t want to do it twice:
It’s bad enough that we’re doing it once. I don’t like the process.
Kolenda rebutted that there duty as selectmen may require them to do it twice. He worried that the state could take several months or not do anything at all. He believed that having the outcome drag on would be unfair to both petitioners and Bartolini.
Shea reinforced Cimino’s stance, indicating that if he had known about the filing of the complaint prior to posting the agenda, the hearing discussion wouldn’t have been included as an item. The Chair said that with only three members able to vote, he wanted all of them to be prepared to vote.
Kolenda pointed out that with elections in May and the tendency of government actions to be slow, it could leave them with just one to vote. (Kolenda’s and Cimino’s terms end in May.)
Cimino said he wasn’t intending to postpone that long. He asked Town Administrator Mark Purple to find out how long the process usually takes.
Resident Ben Keyes asked what they saw Bartolini’s role in the meantime. He was concerned about the member continuing to participate, including on Park Central, while the determination of possible improper behavior was pending.
Cimino said he wouldn’t suggest that Bartolini should automatically recuse himself from proceedings in the interim. Instead, he recommended that Bartolini follow advice from Town Counsel.
He also told Keyes not to assume that the vote outcome would be what he’s looking for.
Cimino remarked that if petitioners want to expedite the process, they could withdraw their letter to the ethics commission. He quickly followed that he wasn’t suggesting they should.