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Bad move bears: AG complaint alleges BOH violated open meeting law, took illegal gifts

KINGSTON- Only an hour after the Kingston Board of Health (BOH) recessed their April 22 public hearing on shadow-flicker—the BOH was back in session at a Kingston bar, with a quorum, dining next to the top executives of the LLC managing three of Kingston’s four skyscraping wind turbines.

An ethics complaint, filed with Attorney General Martha Coakley by KJ.com News Editor Bradford Randall, formally alleges that the Kingston BOH violated the Open Meeting Law (G.L. c.30A~18-25) on the night of Monday, April 22 when Kingston BOH-members Jack Breen, William Kavol and BOH-Chairman Joe Casna met with No Fossil Fuels-executive Mary O’Donnell and No Fossil Fuels CFO Michael Frentte for food and drinks at Finna’s Tavern shortly after the hearing’s recess.

The details of the April 22 incident, involving the Kingston BOH, Mary O’Donnell and Michael Frentte, were first released to the public by Randall on Kingston MA ~ Town Locals, a Facebook page dedicated to all things Kingston, last month on April 26.

Randall’s Open Meeting Law complaint, which also alleges that Frentte paid for the group’s $300 bar tab, was received by the Kingston Board of Health on May 2.

At the time of the April 22 incident at Finna’s Tavern, Casna was also the active chairman of the Kingston Board of Selectmen.

The illegal BOH-meeting at Finna’s Tavern is alleged to have lasted for several hours on the night of April 22 and into the morning hours of April 23, according to Randall’s complaint.

Randall claims that he arrived at Finna’s Tavern shortly after 9 p.m. on April 22 to find Joe Casna, Jack Breen, William Kavol, Mary O’Donnell and Michael Frentte sitting together, eating food and talking on the opposite side of the bar.

Soon after sitting down, Randall was approached by Casna and invited to join the party sitting across from him. Randall declined Casna’s offer.

O’Donnell, who was only in attendance at the BOH’s illegal Finna’s Tavern meeting for a short period of time, left at approximately 10 p.m. after telling a bartender that she was worried Randall might be photographing her.

Masachusetts’ Open Meeting Law considers any assembly of a quorum from a public body as a meeting. The Kingston BOH, a five-member board, has a quorum of three. Furthermore, the same law prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts in excess of $50.

Randall’s complaint also details snippets of conversation, which he claims were audible from his seat across the bar that evening, including a discussion about former BOH-member Dan Sapir and delaying wind turbine regulation until a town meeting.

Sapir, who was defeated by 18 votes in a three-way race for two BOH seats this April, was one of two BOH-members absent from the April 22 BOH meeting with O’Donnell and Frentte at Finna’s Tavern. BOH-member Bill Watson was also not in attendance.

Nearly 24 hours later, on April 23, a bartender at Finna’s Tavern confirmed with Randall that Frentte, also a relative of O’Donnell’s, had paid for the BOH’s mammoth bar tab before leaving the Kingston tavern on April 22.

Both Frentte and O’Donnell are executives from the Grove Street-based company No Fossil Fuels LLC, which owns and operates three industrial-sized wind turbines along Marion Drive in Kingston.

The three BOH-members named in the complaint, Chairman Joe Casna, Vice-Chairman William Kavol and Jack Breen, remain active BOH members.

The Kingston Board of Health, which is legally bound to respond to Open Meeting Law Complaints, has remained silent as of Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, Coakley’s office granted acting-Town Administrator Nancy Howlett a 14-day extension “because the [BOH] requires additional time to investigate the facts.” Howlett’s original request, which sought a 30-day extension from the Attorney General’s office, was denied.

The BOH is now required to respond to Randall’s complaint in writing by Wednesday, June 5.

Howlett had been designated by the BOH to file for an extension with the Attorney General’s office.