Earlier this month, I reported on the conflict between Board of Selectmen and Historical Commission member Michael Weishan. Last night, the Historical Commission voted to file an ethics complaint against the member of the board who led the charge against renewing Weishan’s term on the Commission.
To briefly recap, Selectman Brian Shea urged fellow board members not to renew Weishan’s term on Historical. He told them it was based on the tone and tenor of his communications with St. Anne’s Church. Selectmen allowed Weishan to make a case for remaining on the board and allowed other comments from only the developer William Poutre (whose project was the subject of Weishan’s communications) and the Historical Chair. They also reviewed a communication shared by Poutre. In the end, the board unanimously agreed with Shea’s request.
The Historical Commission, on which Weishan still sits until the end of the month, purports that Shea “knowingly understated” his conflict of interest on the matter. Today, Shea had no comment.
Prior to the June 7th discussion, Shea disclosed that he was a member of St. Anne’s parish. He explained that he had discussed the issue with the ethics commission, filed the appropriate document, and was able to participate. The Historical Commission now alleges that Shea didn’t disclose enough about his involvement with the church and behind the scenes on the dispute between Poutre and the Commission.
After my initial post about the board’s decision. I shared more background on the project that I received – the nature of disputes and communications behind the scenes. The communications included the Town’s records of emails between Weishan and the church and between selectmen and Town officials. (That was later updated when Poutre followed up with me to provide his side of the story.) You can read about all of that here.
Many of those communications are at the heart of the Commission’s complaint, with emails cited as evidence.
The complaint alleges that Shea understated and omitted information on his conflict forms to avoid being forced to recuse himself. Those allegations include that he is more than a church parishioner (is “a liturgical minister”), was involved in “advancing the development project”, previously attempted to have Weishan removed from the board at Poutre’s behest, and had attempted to “use the powers of his office to influence” a new commission member (and a then-church parishioner) in favor of Poutre’s project. (The last charge is from an email included in the filing which I hadn’t previously seen.)
The filing also contends Shea “deliberately misrepresented the continuing nature of his personal animus towards Mr. Weishan and the SHC throughout his term as Chair and beyond,” withheld some of the correspondence between the Historical Commission and church “in order to bias the opinion of other BOS members against Mr. Weishan and the SHC”, and violated policy through inappropriate use of private email.
Although the details are new, the filing of a complaint isn’t a surprise. The Historical Commission’s agenda for last night previewed “Vote to endorse and submit to the Ethics Commission a complaint against selectman, Brian Shea.”
According to the Historical Commission’s issued statement, the complaint was approved by all four of the five members present last night, including Weishan.
You can read the statement and the full complaint here.
What was Mr. Shea thinking? How could he have not recused himself?
I have now watched the Selectmen’s meeting at which the vote to not appoint Mr. Weishan was taken. I know Brian Shea and respect him. I was therefore skeptical that he would have acted improperly in this matter. However I now believe that not only did Mr. Shea have an appearance of a conflict of interest – he was actually conflicted and biased. I do not know what he told the AG’s office when he called them to get clearance. But he could not have possibly told them all of the relevant facts. If he had he would not have been clear to participate in this vote.
The emails that were written are totally damning. Mr. Shea admits he is probably biased. He also is way too cozy with the developer.
At the meeting it was clear that Shea, Kolenda, and probably Shifrin had made their minds up before the meeting. Shifrin was not physically present. He was attending via telephone and was hard to understand on the tape. But it sounded like his mind was also not open. Braccio and Phaneuf at least seemed somewhat torn about their vote.
Dan Kolenda refused to let anyone speak other than the developer and Historical Chair
Hubley and stated that the BOS doesn’t allow public comment on appointments. He appeared to have established that rule that night- after he let the developer speak.
i agree with Mr. Ford. Mr. Shea – what has happened to you? This poor treatment of long serving, capable volunteers has got to stop.
Glad to see this is going to be reviewed by the State, when all the dust has settled the truth will be known to all.
If you all see what is obvious, with bias against many residents, but not with developers, conflicts of interest and abuse of power (gee, who is that directed at), then I’ll say it again. Drain the swamp. Don’t vote for these people whose own interest supersedes the town’s. This goes for all the boards, because these problems are rampant. Who is working for whom