AYER -- Former selectman Pauline Conley is clearing the air over an ethics complaint said to have been filed against her by Selectman Gary Luca.
Luca told The Public Spirit after a May 21 selectmen's meeting that he did not second a motion to appoint Conley to the Zoning Board of Appeals because of an ethics violation former selectman Jim Fay filed with the state against her.
But coming before the Board of Selectmen June 3, Conley said she talked with two people from the State Ethics Commission. "There is no ethics violation filed against me and there is no investigation," she said at the meeting.
Now, Conley said, she wants the record set straight.
"It's nothing more than a vendetta, an ongoing vendetta," she said. "I'm used to it, but as I said Tuesday, if this impacts my personal life any more I'm not going to drop it. I want an apology."
"The truth of the matter is there is no investigation of me at the ethics commission, or for that matter any other place of which I'm aware," she said. "And it's got to come to a stop."
Conley is demanding an apology from the board and a retraction of the statement from Luca, who she said won't even say hello to her in the meeting room or in public.
Luca admits that he made the comment, but said he'll live with the consequences.
He said he was under the impression that Fay had filed an ethics violation charge following a contentious November meeting when Conley is alleged to have removed a nonpublic document from Town Hall.
"But she still -- and there's no denying this -- she still acted wrong," he said. "And I call it unethical."
Luca said he cannot see himself voting for Conley to join any board, committee or commission in the town of Ayer.
The dispute arose during a November 2013 meeting in which Conley, then a selectman, was removed as chair.
At that meeting, Fay read a statement saying that he had requested a formal inquiry to town counsel and to the Board of Ethics "as to the wrongdoing."
But the presumption that a complaint was actually filed seems to be the result of a miscommunication between Fay and the selectmen's office.
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said there was no ethics complaint filed by the selectmen's office, and thought that Fay had filed it.
Pontbriand said he can't file an ethics complaint against a selectman without a vote of the board, which was never done.
Fay said he thought Pontbriand filed a complaint.
"I thought it was filed back then," he said. "The fact that it wasn't doesn't mean I still don't want the question asked and answered. I believe that as an elected official it was improper and unethical for her to take that action."
Pontbriand said the selectmen's office received a copy of Fay's electronic submission of the complaint on Thursday.
In the complaint, which The Public Spirit obtained from Pontbriand, Fay wrote that all five selectmen at the time voted to sign a letter that transferred personnel complaints to the Personnel Board.
Fay wrote in the complaint that when he came into the office on Nov. 9 to sign the letter, it was not there. The next business day, the complaint continues, "the Town Administrator came to his office to find a COPY of the letter under his door with a note from Pauline saying she had the original and had some concerns."
Fay said in the complaint that he, as well as his board colleagues and the town administrator, were concerned that Pauline removed an official BOS document from the office and kept it in her personal possession for at least two days.
"Her unauthorized removal of the official document delayed some selectmen from signing and delayed the time-sensitive transfer of these personnel complaints to the Personnel Board," the complaint states.
Conley said the document in question was in a folder. "I put stuff on top of it. I had been speaking with Selectman Hillman about the document. I picked up everything, we walked out together, we locked the building, and that was the end of it."
She said she later tried to chase Pontbriand down to return it.
"I attempted to return it when he told me he would be available," she said. "I offered to come down at noon time, he said come down at 5. I went down at 5, he was gone."
"If Jim Fay wants to file something seven months later, there's nothing I can do to stop him," she said. "Let him."