SWL: Bartolini resigns after Selectmen refuse reimbursement of legal fees

In 2016, Zoning Board of Appeals member Leo Bartolini refused to resign when resident petitions asked for his removal. To fight actions to remove him from the board, he hired an attorney. According to local media, he resigned last night after selectmen refused to reimburse him for related legal costs. The resignation came just 1-2 months before his term would have expired.*

Bartolini attracted attention from a large contingent of residents based on his running of Park Central hearings. An attorney for petitioners claimed he had conflicts and acted unethically. But most claims and witnesses focused on his treatment of residents during the hearings.

The ZBA member claimed that the accusations were baseless ones by malicious residents with agendas.

Southborough Wicked Local reports:

After selectmen refused to reimburse more than $12,000 for legal fees, embattled Zoning Board of Appeals member Leo Bartolini resigned on the spot and vowed to seek further legal action.

On Tuesday night, selectmen voted 5-0 to deny Bartolini’s request to be reimbursed for hiring attorney Warren Heller to represent him after a group of local residents twice sought to oust him from the board. Heller says Bartolini deserves the $12,124 as a “duly appointed” town official.

“A board or committee member should not be expected to incur legal fees without the support of the town he or she serves,” Heller said.

Selectmen held a hearing last April to consider Bartolini’s removal, but voted 3-0 against doing so. The hearing process began in December 2016 after the two petitions, one containing 96 signatures from July and another with 170 signatures from September.

“Mr. Bartolini, a dedicated public servant for many years, was clearly the target of a group of disgruntled, malicious and mean-spirited individuals with two separate agendas which were/are not necessarily exclusive to each other,” Heller wrote in the letter to selectmen.

Selectmen considered the reimbursement for nearly an hour with selectmen hearing from both Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano and Labor Counsel Tim Norris, who shared legal opinions on the matter. . .

Heller suggested to reduce the amount and not include invoices for the defense of Ethic Commission filings. Bartolini has been cleared of the complaints, he said. . .

“I should be allowed to be reimbursed for what I properly did,” he told the board. “I’ve tried to do everything for this town.”

Selectman Brian Shifrin said he watched some of the hearing on Southborough Access TV and agrees that petitioners had a right to question Bartolini’s actions. . .

Heller said he believes the board gave them a fair shot at presenting their case.

“This was a unique situation,” he said. “We had a difficult hurdle in terms of convincing the board. I anticipated that they didn’t want to start a precedent.”

Click here to read the full article.

*(SWL’s article states that Bartolini referred to his term ending on June 1st. I had been under the impression that terms are until June 30th. Either way, it was set to expire in June 2018. While selectmen had been loathe to remove an appointed member from a board mid-term, it seems unlikely that the controversial member would have been reappointed to another 5-year stint.)

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