FAIRHAVEN – The Board of Selectmen has voted that Selectman Bob Espindola can seek outside counsel to advise him about whether he can vote on wind turbine-related issues.
Before he ran for office, Espindola, along with 22 others, sued the town in an effort to shut down the turbines. Espindola dropped out of the suit when he decided to run, but board Chairman Brian Bowcock contends Espindola’s past involvement is a conflict of interest that should prevent him from participating in related votes.
At a May 14 board meeting, Espindola had asked for permission to seek advice from an attorney other than Town Counsel Thomas Crotty, who represents the town in the same lawsuit. While Selectman Charlie Murphy agreed with Espindola, Bowcock did not.
Bowcock also argued it would not be appropriate for Espindola to vote on whether he could seek outside counsel, leaving the board in a stalemate.
“I think it sets a bad precedent because now any board member can say, ‘Gee, I want special counsel,” Bowcock said Wednesday.
At this week’s meeting, Espindola said he had reached out to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission and received permission to vote to seek outside counsel. That night, the board voted 2-1 that Espindola could seek advice from the law firm Kopelman and Paige.
Espindola did not respond to requests to comment, but Bowcock questioned why Espindola had asked the Ethics Commission only about voting on the counsel question rather than asking it directly about whether he could vote on turbine issues.
“He doesn’t need a lawyer for this. He already talked to the Ethics Commission, so why didn’t they discuss his potential conflict of interest?” Bowcock asked. Murphy said he was relieved the issue had been resolved.
“I had no problem with this,” Murphy said. “He just wants to clear up some things about what he can vote on. This has been on our agenda for months and I just wanted to move on and have everything settled.”
This week’s vote allowing Espindola to seek outside counsel came the same day the town’s Board of Health voted to have the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection conduct sound tests on the turbines.
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