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Suhoski to file ethics complaint, secret session held

Suhoski to file ethics complaint, secret session held
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AYER — The Board of Selectmen has reviewed a memorandum from town administrator Shaun Suhoski that included an affirmation of the board’s records policy and a notice that he will file a complaint against a selectman with the state ethics commission for violating it.

Though the selectman’s name was not mentioned in the memo, Suhoski later confirmed that it was Frank Maxant, who has sparred with Suhoski over the classification of public records in recent weeks.

Attached to the memo viewed at the April 11 meeting were three pages of correspondence from the state supervisor of public records.

Suhoski said the pages affirmed his decision to withhold three pages of confidential material requested by resident Stacey Phillips-Vear. She had appeared before the selectmen in March claiming her requests for public documents were not being honored, but Suhoski said the state supported that action.

”I just wanted to relate to the board it was proper in the eyes of the state,” he said.

The attached letter from State Supervisor of Public Records Alan Cote wrote says Phillips-Vear was seeking all records in relation to complaint police Chief Richard Rizzo pursued against Maxant in December. Phillips-Vear was contending that a personnel report was among those documents.

Cote wrote that Suhoksi claimed the report was not attached to the complaint and that the private personnel files could not be released because it would constitute a violation of privacy.

The matter was not discussed further that evening, and Maxant was not in the room when the memo was presented. Afterward, the board immediately entered executive session to discuss a complaint against a town employee and strategy for litigation.

The memo stated that Suhoksi intends to file the complaint based on Massachusetts General Law Chapter 268.

It’s the state ethics law than mandates certain conduct by public officials, said Suhoski. He’s charging that Maxant abused his position as a selectman and improperly disclosed materials exempt from the public record.

He outlined three primary incidents in support of those charges.

The former was outlined in two parts. One instance was a finding of fact adopted by the board on Jan. 17, when it condemned a letter Maxant wrote to Ayer District Court on Oct. 7, 2005, inquiring into the performance of the Ayer Police Department.

In that letter, Maxant identified himself as a selectman and said he was acting as one of the town’s police commissioners who have oversight of the department. The board voted in January that Maxant included that language to give the appearance that his correspondence was sanctioned by the board and to influence any response to his inquiry.

The second instance pertained to an incident in April where Maxant accessed Town Hall on a Saturday evening and received arraignment papers on behalf of the office from a private citizen with the board’s mail stamp. Suhoski said it raised questions about preferential treatment for the resident that was arraigned and further questioned whether the stamping was done to give the appearance of a town inquiry into the matter. The board reprimanded Maxant for that action on April 4.

Regarding public records, Suhoski alleged that he knew of two incidents where Maxant had disclosed private personal information.

One instance was covered in the April 4 reprimand and it pertained to Maxant sharing confidential correspondence about a town employee with a third party.

Though Maxant said the issue had been raised publicly in the past on serveral occasions, Suhoski said it was a matter of privacy for the employee and a majority of the board agreed.

Maxant could not be reached on Wednesday for comment, but has denied any wrongdoing on all of the aforementioned incidents.

There is also one more charge: that a confidential memo from the police chief including personnel material from a disciplinary hearing of a former town employee was leaked by Maxant.

The correspondence was included in a complaint filed over that incident, and it had Maxant’s name on it, said Suhoski.

He would not comment further on Wednesday about the circumstance. He said he had yet to discuss it with the board. By his account, he was bound by statute to inform the State Ethics Commission and ask them to make a determination of Maxant’s actions.

”It’s to protect the town from future liability in my opinion,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the board formally accepted the April 24 election ballot.

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