The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission has officially cleared Selectman Jamie Sloniecki of any inappropriate action related to his board’s decision late last year to oppose the controversial New Generation Wind turbines proposed off Scenic Highway.
The agency received a conflict of interest complaint about Sloniecki’s vote on the turbines’ location, calling attention to his friendship with subdivision developer Mark Hebb; who builds homes next to the proposed wind-farm location.
Hebb had advocated for a vote of opposition to the proposed turbines next to his property off the highway and near Nightingale Pond. Hebb said he thought the turbines would serve to decrease his property’s value.
Selectmen then voted 3-0 with two abstentions to oppose the wind-farm’s location and sent a follow-up letter to the Cape Cod Commission, which is reviewing the energy-conversion proposal.
Special Investigator Scott Cole determined it was not clear whether Sloniecki “formally disclosed orally or in writing your friendship with Mr. Hebb before you participated in the selectmen’s vote on the issue.”
State ethics law in this consideration prohibits public employees from “causing a reasonable person, knowing all of the facts, to conclude that anyone can improperly influence or unduly enjoy that person’s favor in the performance of his official duties.”
This section of the law is designed to deal with appearances of impropriety and in appearances that public officials have given people deferential treatment. Elected officials, however, can avoid this appearance of impropriety if the employee discloses publicly all of the relevant circumstances that would otherwise create the appearance of conflict.
Sloniecki said he had indeed publicly acknowledged his friendship with Hebb prior to the wind-farm opposition vote. He said the two men discussed many things while together but never town business, especially matters directly before the board.
“I feel the same now as I did when I declared I was friends with Mark,” Sloniecki said Thursday after filing the state ruling with Town Clerk Barry Johnson. “No different.”
Sloniecki also filed with Johnson his formal acknowledgement that he is a personal friend of Mark Hebb.
The complaint to the state ethics agency came from Planning Board Chairman Chris Farrell, acting as a private citizen. The Lorusso/Ingersoll turbine project will come before the planning board should it pass muster at the commission after lengthy review.
Cole in his letter to Sloniecki said the complaint file is closed. He said the commission would keep confidential all matters relating to the letter of notification, but Sloniecki is not covered by that confidentiality restriction.
Cole said if the selectman partially disclosed the contents of the ethics ruling, however, the agency itself could make the full text public.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding