Middlebury resident Ray Rivard is asking for two things:
- A rescinding of the Board of Selectmen's October 3 vote to extend the Middlebury Police Department chief's contract
- All persons who encouraged or allowed the vote to take place be removed from office
Rivard, a former petitioning candidate for the Police Commission, said the townspeople and taxpayers have been betrayed.
Rivard said, in a December 6 letter to the Board of Selectmen, that he personally warned then-Selectman Bob Desmarais to recuse himself from voting on any contract extension but said that request fell on deaf ears.
At the Monday, Oct. 3, Board of Selectmen meeting, the board approved, 2-1, the renewal of Police Chief Richard Guisti's contract. Selectman Elaine M.R. Strobel cast the nay vote, saying she felt the new Police Commission and Board of Selectmen should be able to sign off on the contract.
Then-First Selectman Tom Gormley and Desmarais were the other members of the board at that time.
Because Desmarais is related to a member of the , his son John Desmarais, Rivard feels that is a clear conflict of interest and stated in the letter that then-Selectman Desmarais should have recused himself from voting, per the town charter.
Section 801 [attached to this article as a PDF] of the town charter, regarding conflict of interest, states the following:
"A private interest shall be deemed to exist if any such officer, member or employee shall have an interest by reason of relationship within the fourth degree by blood or marriage, or close business relationship of prejudicial relationship with a person involved in any such contract, transaction or decision."
The disclosure of conflict part of Section 801 states: "Any elected officer or town employee who shall have a conflict of interest as defined herein shall disclose the interest causing such conflict in writing to the Board of Selectmen. Any elected or appointed member of any town board or commission who shall have a conflict of interest shall disclose the interest causing such conflict to such board or commission."
The section on disqualification states: "If it has been determined that a material conflict of interest exists, the officer, board, commission, authority or committee member or employee who has the conflict shall be disqualified from discussing or acting upon any matter encompassed by that conflict of interest. Any officer, board, commission, authority or committee member or employee may disqualify himself even though the conflict of interest has not been determined to be material."
A material conflict of interest is defined in the charter as such: "A conflict of interest shall be deemed to be material where a reasonable person would conclude that the financial or private interest is incompatible with the proper discharge of official duties or would tend to impair independence of judgement and action in the performance of official duties."
Under the Sanctions part of Section 801, it notes that any violation of the Disclosure of Conflict section and Disqualification section [B1 and D] shall be grounds for removal of any such officer, board, commission, authority and committee member or employee pursuant to the provisions of this charter or the General Statutes.
"Any such violation shall render any purchase, contract or transaction affected thereby voidable by the authority which approved the purchase, contract, or transaction, and any such violation with respect to any decision of a board, commission, authority or committee shall be subject to such remedies as may be provided by law," according to Section 801 of the town charter.
Rivard wrote another letter, dated Monday, Dec. 19, the same day that a Board of Selectmen meeting took place.
"The guilty behavior of the Police [Commission] commissioners must not be ignored because they encouraged selectmen to go ahead with the vote on October 3," said Rivard in the letter.
He also alleged that Chief Guisti did not take measures to stop charter violations.
"Change is needed now," Rivard said in the letter.
He said he is hopeful the new Board of Selectmen, consisting of First Selectman Edward B. St. John, Selectman Strobel and Selectman Ralph Barra will ask for the immediate resignation of Police Commission members Francis Cipriano, Chairman Don Ford and Jordano Santos, for allegedly encouraging conflicts of interest during the approval of a town contract.
St. John told Patch that Rivard's letters were forward to . Smith's attorney services are used by the town on an as-needed basis, said St. John.