Heated ethics debate continues

SOUTHWICK – The ethics debate continued at this week’s Southwick Board of Selectmen meeting.
Chairman Arthur Pinell proposed the board approve allowing him to speak to Attorney Demitrios Moschos specifically about concerns of conflicts between Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Karl Stinehart and Selectwoman Tracy Cesan, who is also a town employee. Pinell said at this point, he believed most of the concerns regarding ethics and conflicts of interest were addressed.
“The exception to that is clarification of the CAO and Selectman Cesan in her role as an employee,” said Pinell.
Moschos was hired last spring by the board, prior to Cesan’s election, to represent Stinehart’s interests, which is allowed by law.
‘The board had undertaken a procedure from day one of the term of Selectman Cesan because of her dual role,” said Pinell.
Cesan protested Pinell’s request. She said during a conversation with Town Counsel Kenenth Albano, he told her Moschos was no longer needed.
“(Albano) is not sure what (Moschos’) role is anymore,” said Cesan. “There is no conflict with Mr. Stinehart.”
Cesan said continuing to seek opinions from Moschos costs the town money, while the opinions of the State Ethics Commission are free and Albano is already retained as town counsel.
“If you vote this in, it’s unnecessary,” she said. “It’s wasting taxpayer dollars.”
Cesan said she, Sinehart and Albano can sit down together if and when a conflict arises.
“We can do this – we do not need any other attorneys,” said Cesan. “We are better than this. We are above this.”
Stinehart reminded Cesan that although she stated Moschos was unnecessary, it was his right to have an additional attorney.
“When the request came from me, it was a right afforded to me in the law,” Stinehart said.
Cesan said the Ethics Commission has ruled on the topic and has allowed Cesan to participate in discussions and votes concerning Stinehart.
“This is a perfect example of the issue that is not resolved,” said Pinell. “The issues are not resolved.
“The process we envisioned has been subordinated by attorneys outside of the town,” Pinell said in reference to an attorney hired privately by Cesan to represent her interests.
“You’re lying again,” Cesan said.
Pinell said it was “important to resolve this” and added that the discussion would be a benefit to all board and committee members who are also town employees.
“We have this unique situation right now, but that doesn’t mean we won’t encounter a similar situation in the future, or a parallel situation we aren’t aware of now,” Pinell said.
Selectman Russell Fox was quiet throughout much of the discussion but did say “we’ve got to get this thing resolved.”
“It is resolved,” said Cesan. “You just have to abide by the law.”
Fox then made a motion to allow Pinell to specifically discuss Stinehart’s job description and the town employee handbook with Moschos. Pinell seconded the motion and Cesan voted against the measure.

To Top